AIDS-related lymphoma is a cancer that occurs in the lymph system of patients diagnosed with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Patients with AIDS have the HIV virus that attacks and weakens their immune system, making them more prone to infection and disease. The lymph system is made up of many parts throughout the body including lymph (a fluid that carries white blood cells), lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and the spleen.
Lymphomas are characterized by how they look under a microscope. They generally fall into two categories – Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the type seen most often in AIDS-related lymphoma cases. Lymphoma can be fast or slow growing, but in this case it is a fast-growing and aggressive cancer.
Common types of AIDS-related lymphoma include:
- Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
- B-cell immunoblastic lymphoma
- Small non-cleaved lymphoma
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of AIDS-related lymphoma can include weight loss, fever, night sweats, a feeling of being “full” under the ribs, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, chest or groin. Sometimes a person doesn’t find out that they have AIDS until they are also diagnosed with AIDS-related lymphoma.
Diagnosis of AIDS-related lymphoma starts with a physical exam, questions about the patient’s history, and a look at their overall health. A CBC (complete blood count) is performed to identify the number of white and red blood cells present. In some cases a lymph node biopsy or a bone marrow aspiration is performed. If the patient has not yet been diagnosed with AIDS, the doctor may also do an HIV test.
There is no standard treatment for AIDS-related lymphoma. Treatment can include chemotherapy, chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, or participating in clinical trials. The treatment plan is based on each individual case. Factors such as the progression of the disease and the overall health of the patient are taken into consideration when determining how to best treat them.
The prognosis for AIDS-related lymphoma varies tremendously from one case to the next. The overall health of the patient, other disease related complications they may be dealing with, and their treatment plan, can all have an effect on the outcome of their disease.