Introduction: World Lymphoma Awareness Day, observed on September 15th each year, is a global initiative aimed at raising awareness about lymphoma, a group of cancers that affect the lymphatic system. This day serves as an opportunity to educate people about lymphoma, its various types, risk factors, and the importance of early detection and treatment. In this blog, we’ll explore what lymphoma is, its significance, and how you can contribute to spreading awareness.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, which is a vital part of the body’s immune system. It occurs when abnormal lymphocytes (white blood Cells) multiply uncontrollably, leading to the formation of tumours in lymph nodes and other lymphatic tisuses.
Types of Lymphoma:
- Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL): Hodgkin lymphoma is relatively rare, accounting for about 10% of all lymphoma cases. It is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, large abnormal cells found in affected lymph nodes. HL is further classified into subtypes, including:
- Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Mixed Cellularity Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Lymphocyte Rich-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Lymphocyte-Depleted Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL): Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a diverse group of lymphomas, making up the majority of lymphoma cases. There are numerous subtypes of NHL, with varying behaviours and characteristics. Some common subtypes include:
- Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)
- Follicular Lymphoma
- Mantle Cell Lymphoma
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (CLL/SLL)
Causes of Lymphoma:
The exact cause of Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) or Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is not fully understood, and in most cases, it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors.
- Age and Gender: Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most commonly diagnosed in two age groups; young adults (between the ages of 15 and 35) and older adults (over 55). It is also slightly more common in males than females. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in older adults, with the risk increasing with age.
- Weakened Immune System: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients taking immunosuppressive drugs, or certain congenital immune deficiencies, are at a higher risk of developing HL or NHL.
- Family History: Although lymphoma is not considered a hereditary cancer, a family history of the disease may slightly increase the risk. However the overall risk of familial lymphoma remains relatively low.
- Viral Infections: Several viral infections have been linked to an increased risk of HL or NHL. These include:
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): In some cases, infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis (mono), has been linked to an increased risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma, particularly in younger individuals. Associated with certain NHL subtypes, particularly Burkitt lymphoma and some cases of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
- Human T-cell lymphocytropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1): Linked to adult T-cell lymphoma/leukemia (ATLL).
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV): It may increase the risk of certain types, such as marginal zone lymphoma.
- Exposure to Certain Chemicals: Some studies have suggested that prolonged exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals, may increase the risk of developing HL and NHL.
- Prior Radiation Exposure: Individuals who have received radiation therapy for other medical conditions, especially at a young age, may have slightly increase the risk of developing lymphoma in the irradiated area.
- Autoimmune Diseases: There is some evidence to suggest that individuals with certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematous, may have slightly increased the risk of developing lymphoma.
- Certain Medical Treatments: Some treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy for previous cancers, may increase the risk of developing lymphoma.
- Helicobacter pylori Infection: Infection with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can cause stomach ulcers, has been associated with an increased risk of genetic mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Enlarged Lymph Nodes: Swollen lymph nodes, often painless, in areas like the neck, armpits, or groin. These swollen nodes are one of the most common signs of lymphoma.
- Unexplained Weight Loss: Significant and unintentional weight loss, typically more than 10% of your body weight over six months, can be a red flag.
- Fatigue: Persistent and unexplained fatigue, weakness, or lack of energy, often not relieved by rest.
- Fever: Recurrent or persistent fevers that may come and go without an apparent cause.
- Night Sweats: Profuse sweating, particularly at night, often soaking your bedclothes and not related to room temperature.
- Itching: Pruritus (itching) of the skin, which may be generalized or localized.
- Loss of Appetite: A reduced desire to eat and unintended weight loss.
- Coughing or Breathing Problems: In some cases, lymphoma can cause coughing, chest pain, or difficulty breathing if it affects lymph nodes in the chest.
- Abdominal pain or Swelling: Lymphoma can affect abdominal organs, leading to pain, discomfort, or a feeling of fullness.
- Bone pain: Rarely, lymphoma may involve the bones, causing pain or fractures.
- Infections: Frequent or severe infections, as lymphoma can weaken the immune system.
- Swelling in the Face or Neck: In rare cases, lymphoma may cause swelling in the face or neck due to pressure on blood vessels or lymphatic vessels.
- Changes in Bowel Habits: Lymphoma affecting the gastrointestinal tract can lead to changes in bowel habits or bowel obstruction.
Diagnosis of Lymphoma:
Diagnosing lymphoma involves a series of medical evaluations and tests to determine whether a person has lymphoma, identify its type, and assess its stage (extent of spread).
- Medical History and Physical Examination:
- The process often begins with a detailed discussion of the patient’s medical history, including symptoms and risk factors.
- A thorough physical examination is performed to check for enlarged lymph nodes, swelling, or other signs of lymphoma.
2. Blood Tests:
- Blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry, can provide important information about the patient’s overall health and the function of various organs.
- A biopsy is the most definitive way to diagnose lymphoma. A small sample of tissue, usually a lymph node, is removed and examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine if cancerous cells are present.
There are various methods for obtaining biopsy samples including:
- Excisional Biopsy: Removing an entire lymph node or part of it.
- Needle Biopsy: Using a thin needle to extract a sample from a lymph node or other affected tissue.
- Bone Marrow Biopsy: If bone marrow involvement is suspected, a sample may be taken from the bone marrow for examination.
4. Imaging Tests:
- Imaging tests are essential to determine the extent of lymphoma and its involvement in various parts of the body. Common imaging tests include:
- CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: It provides detailed cross-sectional images of the body.
- PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan: It helps identify areas of increased metabolic activity, often used in conjunction with a CT scan.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): It provides detailed images of soft tissues.
5. Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap):
- In some cases, a lumbar puncture may be performed to check for the presence of lymphoma cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the brain and spinal cord. This is especially relevant for certain types of lymphoma.
6. Flow Cytometry and Immunohistochemistry:
- These laboratory techniques are used to identify specific markers on the surface of lymphoma cells. This helps classify the type of lymphoma more precisely.
7. Molecular and Genetic Testing:
- Molecular and Genetic tests may be conducted to analyse the DNA and genetic mutations within lymphoma cells. This can guide treatment decisions and prognosis.
- Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the extent of lymphoma is determined through staging. Staging helps determine the severity of the disease and guides treatment decisions.
- Staging typically includes evaluation of the size and location of tumours, as well as their involvement in nearby lymph nodes or distant organs.
The Significance of World Lymphoma Awareness Day:
- Early Detection: One of the primary goals of this day is to emphasize the importance of early detection. Many lymphoma cases may be treated effectively when diagnosed at an early stage. Awareness campaigns encourage individuals to recognize potential symptoms like swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.
- Reducing Stigma: Lymphoma patients often face stigma and misconceptions about their condition. Raising awareness helps dispel these myths and promotes a better understanding of the challenges faced by those living with lymphoma.
- Support and Resources: It also highlights the support networks and resources available to patients and their families. It connects them with organizations, healthcare professionals, and communities that can provide guidance, information, and emotional support.
- Fundraising: To advance research and improve treatments for lymphoma, awareness campaigns often involve fundraising efforts. Donations contribute to research, clinical trials, and better care for lymphoma patients.
How can you contribute to World Lymphoma Awareness Day?
- Spread the Word: Share information about lymphoma on social media platforms, using relevant hashtags like
#LymphomaAwarenessand#WLAD. Encourage your friends and followers to learn more about these disease.
- Educate Yourself: Take the time to understand lymphoma, its symptoms, and risk factors. Knowledge is powerful tool in raising awareness.
- Participate in Events: Many organizations host events, walks, and runs to commemorate World Lymphoma Awareness Day.
- Support Lymphoma Charities: Consider making a donation to lymphoma research organizations or charities dedicated to helping patients and their families.
How Homeopathy is Helpful?
Homeopathy is an alternative system of medicine that uses highly diluted substances to stimulate body’s natural healing processes. It focuses on individualized treatment based on a person’s specific symptoms and overall health. While there are homeopathic remedies that are sometimes considered for conditions associated with enlarged lymph nodes, it’s essential to understand that homeopathy is not a substitute for conventional medical evaluation and treatment when needed.
6 Best Homeopathic Remedies that are sometimes considered for Lymphatic Conditions include:
- Belladonna: It is a great remedy useful when enlarged lymph nodes are hot, red, and painful, often associated with fever and inflammation.
- Mercurius: It is wonderful medicine when there are swollen lymph nodes with excessive salivation, perspiration, and a sense of general weakness.
- Calcarea Carbonica: This remedy may be suggested when lymph nodes are enlarged due to a chronic, low-grade infection, and the person feels chilly and overweight.
- Silicea: It is used when there are hard, painless, and slow-growing lymph nodes.
- Lycopodium: This remedy is given for lymph nodes that are swollen on the right side, associated with digestive issues and bloating.
- Phytolacca: This remedy is suggested for swollen lymph nodes with soreness and stiffness, especially in the neck and throat area. To buy homeopathic medicines online.
World Lymphoma Awareness Day is a crucial opportunity to educate the people about lymphoma, a disease that affects thousands of people worldwide. By increasing awareness, we can promote early detection, reduce stigma, and support those affected by lymphoma. Every effort, no matter how small, contributes to a world where lymphoma is better understood, treated, and ultimately defeated.
Dr Simranjit Kaur
Dr Simranjit Kaur is a highly accomplished medical professional with a BHMS degree from BVDU Pune and additional qualifications including CGO and MBA(Hospital Administration). With a passion for paediatric care, Dr. Simranjit pursed a fellowship in paediatrics, honing expertise in the specialized field. Currently Research Officer at BJain Pharmaceuticals.