Follicular lymphoma is a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). It is a slow-growing type of cancer that develops from B-cells, a type of white blood cell.
It is sometimes referred to as a “low grade” lymphoma for its slow nature, both in terms of growing/metastasizing and how it appears under a microscope.
This type of cancer usually affects older adults, usually those 55 years of age on average. It typically affects men and women equally. The name of the illness stems from the appearance of the lymph nodes under a microscope, which show rounded structures called “follicles”.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms can vary from patient to patient. They are usually very subtle and often go unnoticed at first, since many of them also accompany a variety of less-severe conditions. It is not uncommon for the disease to be in an advanced stage before it is diagnosed. The most common symptoms are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Diagnosis & Treatment
There are a number of routine tests that can be given to detect follicular lymphoma, including blood tests, CT or CAT scans, and bone marrow tests.
For a definitive diagnosis, a lymph node biopsy is conducted. In this procedure, a small sample of tissue is cut from the mass and examined under a microscope to identify cancer cells.
Treatment options depend on the stage of the illness. Radiation has been found to be effective in the early stages. Other patients that show less severe symptoms may not require any immediate treatment. Chemotherapy is a third effective treatment option; medication may be taken orally or by injection.
Because of the slow-growing nature of this illness, even patients diagnosed with late-stage follicular lymphoma are in no immediate life-threatening danger.
The disease is known as a “waxing and waning” condition, which means it flares up and regresses many times over the years. Many patients have been known to survive 8 to 10 years or more with treatment following an initial diagnosis.