What is lymphoma
The lymph system is a series of lymph nodes and vessels that move lymph fluid through the body. Lymph fluids contain infection-fighting white blood cells. Lymph nodes act as filters, capturing and destroying bacteria and viruses to prevent infection from spreading.
While the lymph system typically protects your body, lymph cells called lymphocytes can become cancerous. The names for cancers that occur in the lymph system are lymphomas.
What are the symptoms of lymphoma?
Lymphoma may not always cause symptoms in its early stages. Instead, a doctor may discover enlarged lymph nodes during a physical examination. These may feel like small, soft nodules under the skin. A person may feel the lymph nodes in the:
- upper chest
Likewise, many of the symptoms of early lymphoma are not specific. That makes them easy to overlook. These common early symptoms of lymphoma include:
- bone pain
- enlarged spleen
- night sweats
- pain when drinking alcohol
- itchy rash
- rash in skin folds
- shortness of breath
- skin itching
- stomach pain
- unexplained weight loss
Because the symptoms of lymphoma are often easily overlooked, it can be difficult to detect and then diagnose it in an early stage. It’s important to know how the symptoms may begin to change as the cancer worsens.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes lymphoma. But it begins when a disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a genetic mutation. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly, causing many diseased lymphocytes that continue multiplying.
The mutation also allows the cells to go on living when other normal cells would die. This causes too many diseased and ineffective lymphocytes in your lymph nodes and causes the lymph nodes, spleen and liver to swell.
Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include:
- Your age. Some types of lymphoma are more common in young adults, while others are most often diagnosed in people over 55.
- Being male. Males are slightly more likely to develop lymphoma than are females.
- Having an impaired immune system. Lymphoma is more common in people with immune system diseases or in people who take drugs that suppress their immune system.
- Developing certain infections. Some infections are associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, including the Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection.