Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a group of blood cancers which include all types of lymphoma except for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and range in severity from mild to extremely aggressive. All forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma originate in the body’s lymph system and attack the infection-fighting white blood cells. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified 70 forms of lymphomas.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Risk Factors
Patients who may fit any of the criteria listed below do not necessarily have a greater chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; however, if a patient is concerned about possible risk factors because of their family history or existing health problems, visit a medical professional as soon as possible.
Risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:
- Older (60+), white males
- Having one of a number of medical conditions, including Epstein-Barr virus or an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis
- Taking immunosuppressant drugs following an organ transplant
- Exposure to certain pesticides
- Poor diet
- History of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnosis
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed by one of the following exams:
- Physical: A doctor will order a thorough physical exam to identify any lumps, swelling, or other unusual symptoms, as well as gather a complete medical history on the patient.
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: A small sampling of bone marrow, bone, and blood will be removed from the hipbone or breastbone and biopsied (examined under a microscope) to detect any abnormal cells.
- Lumbar puncture: Also known as a spinal tap, the patient lies in a fetal position while a needle is inserted into the spine and sample of cerebrospinal fluid is collected.
- Lymph node biopsy: Depending on the size and location of the mass, all or part of the lymph node may be removed and examined.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment
A patient’s treatment options depend on the type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma they have, as well as the size, location, and stage of the mass. Most forms of the illness are treated with one or a combination of the following methods:
- Chemotherapy: Ahigh dose of medication is injected into the mass.
- Monoclonal antibodies: This laboratory-produced protein binds itself to substances in the body and can be used by itself or to transmit medications, toxins, or radiation to the mass.
- Immunotherapy: The body’s own immune system is boosted in order to fight the disease. To do this, the patient is either given laboratory-produced proteins or parts of the immune system are stimulated to work harder.
- Radiation: Radioactive cells are injected directly into the mass.
- Peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT): Through this procedure, the body’s own immature stem cells (those that produce blood cells) are removed and put through a machine for cleansing, then inserted back into the patient.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Outlook
As with treatment, a patient’s outlook depends on the type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma they have, as well as the size, location, and stage of the mass. Patients with an aggressive form of the disease have a much lower life expectancy than those with a milder version.