Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Symptoms and Treatment
Oncological diseases are today one of the most difficult and difficult to treat diseases. These include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, there is always a chance, and a clear idea of what the disease, its types, causes, methods of diagnosis, symptoms, therapies and the outlook for the future can be to increase them.
What is the disease
In order to understand what is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one should understand the concept of lymphoma in general. Lymphoma is a name that unites a group of oncological diseases. Cancer cells affect the lymphatic tissue, lymph nodes greatly increase in size, possibly affecting somatic organs. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is any kind of disease that does not belong to Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
What can be the cause of the disease
The causes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have not yet been clarified. Indirectly, the following factors can influence the development of the disease and further prognosis:
- work with aggressive chemicals
- living in areas with unfavorable ecological conditions
- Severe viral infections, in particular — the Epstein-Barr virus;
- exposure to ionizing radiation
It can also be noted that men suffer from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma more often than women. Also the likelihood of detection of the disease increases with age: according to statistics, among the people who are sick the majority of people are over 40 years old. Age also often determines the form of the disease: children and young people are more likely to develop symptoms of a malocular form of the disease or Burkitt’s lymphoma, the elderly usually have follicular lymphomas.
Classification of various forms of the disease
As already mentioned, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a name that unites a group of similar (similarly similar symptoms, treatment methods and prognosis for the future), but still different diseases. And these diseases can be divided on the following grounds:
Nature of disease progression
According to this sign, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are divided into two types: aggressive and indolent lymphomas, which quickly progress, literally «gushing» with various symptoms and spreading through the body at an incredible rate. And strangely enough, aggressive lymphomas are most likely to be cured. Indolent lymphomas are characterized by a flaccid, chronic course with sudden relapses. It is these relapses that often cause the patient’s death. In addition, indolent type lymphoma has the property of degenerating into diffuse large-celled, which will significantly increase malignancy and, accordingly, worsen the prognosis.
Although the name «lymphoma» primarily involves the defeat of lymph nodes, lymphoma can be found not only there. Depending on the location, the following types of lymphomas are distinguished:
- Nodal. In this variant, the tumors are located exclusively in the lymph nodes. As a rule, we are talking about the initial stages of the disease. The prognosis for this form is good enough, the chance of long-term remission is high.
- Extranodal. In this case, lymphoma spreads to tissues and organs — through lymph or blood. In more advanced stages of the disease, tumors penetrate into the bones and brain. One of the most severe forms of extranodal lymphomas is Burkitt’s lymphoma.
- Diffuse. In this case, the detection of lymphoma is most difficult, since pathogenic cells are located on the walls of blood vessels, so the lymph node pattern is erased. In the form of cells, diffuse lymphoma can be: polymorphic (in this case, large round pathogenic cells are observed), lymphoblastic (twisted cells), immunoblastic (there is a strong growth of cells around the central cell — nucleoli) and not differentiated species.
Symptomatic of the disease
As a rule, the earliest stages of the disease are almost asymptomatic. However, a little later you can see the following symptoms of the disease:
- A strong increase in lymph nodes (usually cervical and axillary)
- Weakness, lethargy.
- Increased temperature.
- Fast enough weight loss.
- Severe sweating even in cool or cold weather
All of the above symptoms are quite common, therefore it is difficult to identify lymphoma in the early stages. However, if an enlarged lymph node is found, you should immediately go to a specialist, because the lymph nodes can grow from a common cold, and from such a serious disease as lymphoma.
How is diagnostics done
In addition to the history, a number of additional studies are needed to establish an accurate diagnosis. Among them:
- Histological examination (puncture or lymph node biopsy). Due to this analysis, pathological cells that indicate the presence of lymphoma can be found in the lymph.
- Cytological and cytochemical analyzes based on punctate
- Immunological research.
When it is possible to find out if a person has lymphoma, other studies are being assigned that will help establish all the parameters of the disease, because further treatment depends on this.
Stages of development of the disease
During the diagnosis of the disease, its malignancy and the stage of the disease are determined. Malignancy can be high, low or intermediate. As for the stages, there are four.
At the initial, first stage of the disease, one can observe only a single inflamed lymph node, general symptoms (weakness, poor health, hyperthermia) are not observed.
In the second stage of a disease such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, tumors become plural. Little by little, general symptoms begin to appear. If we are talking about the B-cell form, then at this stage the tumors begin to be divided into subjects and not subject to removal.
At this stage of development of the disease, tumors often spread already on the diaphragm, abdominal cavity, thorax. The tissues are damaged, as well as all or almost all internal organs.
The last and most difficult stage of the disease. The forecast in this case, alas, is very disappointing. The disease affects not only the organs, but also the bone marrow, gets to the central nervous system and bones. If the treatment was delayed so much that lymphoma passed into this stage, then there can be no recovery.
What treatments are used to fight non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
In many ways, the methods by which the treatment will be performed depend on the nature of the disease, the size of the tumors, the stage and malignancy. But in general, you can identify the following ways to fight the disease:
- Chemotherapy. It is the basis of treatment. In the early (first and second) stages, low-grade lymphomas use monochemotherapy. If the stages are heavy or lymphoma behaves extremely aggressively, then polychemotherapy is used. Sometimes chemotherapy is combined with radiotherapy, but here the irradiation in its pure form can help only at the first stage. Also, radiation therapy is sometimes applied locally in those areas where the neoplasm behaves most aggressively.
- Surgical removal of the tumor. Of course, this method is used only if the stage and variety of the tumor allows. With successful use of radiation therapy and surgical intervention, the prognosis is quite positive: a remission of 5 to 10 years may come.
- The application of BATSOP programs, OCPs, etc. It should be noted that these programs show fairly good performance.
- Palliative treatment designed to relieve pain and improve the quality of life of the patient to the extent that it is possible. It is used at terminal stages, when the prognosis is disappointing and the chances of defeating the disease are quite small. In addition to medication, the patient may need the help of a psychologist, as well as support of relatives.
What is the prognosis of the outcome of the disease
As already mentioned, treatment, as well as the effect of it with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — is a very individual matter. Someone is able to achieve full recovery from the first attempt, someone has to face relapses, someone can only extend his life for several years, and in some cases medicine is completely powerless. However, the diagnosis should not be considered a sentence: with timely diagnosis, proper treatment and not too problematic form of the disease, the chances of recovery reach 65-70%. And that’s a lot.