Blood Cancers - Lymphoma

Today, 15 September, is World Lymphoma Awareness Day.

It was started in 2004 by the Lymphoma Coalition in Europe. This non-profit organisation was initiated to increase awareness of this cancer. The symptoms of Lymphoma are often missed due to the fact that they are similar to other, less serious diseases. The Lymphoma Coalition has since become a worldwide network of individuals who strive to educate, offer support and research Lymphoma.

For the month of September, we are looking at cancers of the blood. In our last blog we touched on Leukemia - a form of cancer that starts in our bone marrow and occurs when our white blood cells become malignant. For this blog, we will be looking at Lymphoma which is also caused by malignant white blood cells but begins in the other areas of our lymphatic system.

What is a lymphatic system and what is its purpose?

Our lymphatic system (made up of a number of different organs including the spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, thymus glands, lymph tissue, and bone marrow) is part of our immune system and has many functions. Protecting the body from illness-causing invaders, maintaining body fluid levels, absorbing digestive tract fats and removing cellular waste are some of the ‘jobs’ of the lymphatic system.

There are different types of white blood cells, including the T cells and B cells - also referred to as lymphocytes. These white blood cells are produced in both the bone marrow and thymus glands. Lymphoma occurs when the lymphocytes become malignant and reproduce at higher rates than normal.

In a similar manner to Leukemia, the overabundance of cancerous lymphocytes causes our blood to become overcrowded. This, in turn, diminishes the blood’s ability to function as it should. Our body’s ability to fight infections, prevent bleeding and transport oxygen becomes compromised.

Some common symptoms of Lymphoma include;

Persistent, overwhelming fatigue, fevers or chills, swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, difficulty breathing, itchy skin and bruising easily.

These symptoms may vary between people and as we can see, they are quite vague and could have other causes - such as menopause, flu, anemia, etc. It is very important to make a note if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and to alert your doctor. The early detection of cancer can increase your chances of recovery.

Diagnosis starts with a physical examination as well as research into your medical history. From there, your doctor may request that a sample of blood be taken for testing or a possible biopsy of your lymph nodes or bone marrow. With these tests, the type of Lymphoma can be determined and solutions and treatments will be discussed. Treatment may include, chemo and radiation therapy, immunotherapy drugs, a specialised treatment called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, or a possible bone marrow transplant. In certain cases of slow-growing cancers, active surveillance may be all that is needed.

This is for your information and hopefully you are in good health. However, should you be concerned, or would want to ask questions, please consult your doctor.

If you would like to talk to one of our qualified nurses, please feel free to call us on 0876543177 to make an appointment at our RezCare Hub at 85 Main Road, Fish Hoek, Cape Town (South Africa). If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be presenting similar symptoms, please visit your doctor as soon as possible for a check-up.

Further reading and Cancer Associations:

  1. Lymphoma Coalition - All the information on the official Lymphoma Coalition including how to become a member

  2. We Can’t Wait : An urgent call for World Lymphoma Day 2021 - All you need to know about world lymphoma day

  3. Everything you need to know about Lymphoma - Detailed article explaining all you need to know about lymphoma (Healthline)

Youtube Videos:

  1. Lymphoma Explained Clearly - (19:22min) Very detailed lecture on Lymphoma, aimed at students, very informative.

  2. Symptoms of Lymphoma - (5:34min) Dr Andrew Davies (University of Southampton) talks about the common symptoms of Lymphoma.

Resources used:

Lymphatic system:

Symptoms, causes, treatments:'t%20sure%20what,diseased%20lymphocytes%20that%20continue%20multiplying.

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