Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. There are two types of lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s Disease. Non-Hodgkin’s is a form that affects the lymphatic system. There are about twenty different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the only way to tell the difference between these two types of lymphoma is by looking at the cells under a microscope.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 we will see more than 79,000 new cases of lymphoma. Of that number just over 9,000 will be the hodgkin’s type and just over 70,000 will be non-Hodgkin’s. Incidence rates tend to be higher in men than women.

Hodgkin's Disease
About 75 percent of those diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease recover fully. About 90 percent of all people diagnosed with early-stage illness and more than 50 percent of those with more advanced stage are now living longer than ten years with no signs of the disease coming back. The stage of the disease at diagnosis is critical in planning treatments. Sometimes giving the patient aggressive chemotherapy and then introducing young cells from the bone marrow (bone marrow transplantation) may increase chances of the patient living longer. A bone marrow transplant should be considered for every patient whose disease comes back after undergoing chemotherapy.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL)

In the last ten years, this disease has become easier to treat as more procedures are found to be effective. Overall, 50 to 60 percent of patients with NHL now live five years or longer without a recurrence. While a number of factors determine the best treatment for these disorders, the most significant is tissue classification followed by determination of the disease's stage.

Risk Factors for Lymphoma

Unfortunately, researchers cannot exactly pinpoint what causes this disease. They have however, identified risk factors for the disease.

In general, lymphoma can develop in anyone, whether or not you display some of the risk factors attributed to the disease. Though there are factors that have been found in people with lymphoma, having some or none of the factors does not determine that a person will or will not develop lymphoma.

Risk factors include:

  • Age. Lymphoma can develop in both children and adults, but the majority of people diagnosed are usually are over the age of 60.
  • Weak immune system. Other illnesses or diseases, such as HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system and can make the body more susceptible to lymphoma.
  • Family history. While some patients with lymphoma claim to have family members also afflicted with the disease, there is no known evidence that lymphoma is hereditary. In some instances, conditions that affect the immune system may run in families, therefore increasing the chances of lymphoma developing within families.
  • Infections. Illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, Epstein-Barr virus, Hepatitis C and Helicobacter pylori are all factors that can increase the risk of developing lymphoma.
    Studies are now being done to see if there is a relation to obesity and certain herbicides and chemicals and the development of lymphoma.
  • Radiation. People exposed to high levels of radiation such as survivors of nuclear reactor accidents and Atomic bombs are at an increased risk for developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. People also who had previous radiation therapy for another type of cancer or illness are also at a higher risk for lymphoma.

Symptoms of Lymphoma
The most common symptom of lymphoma is an enlarged lymph node, or painless swelling, in the neck, groin or armpit. Most people will have no other symptoms, although occasionally weight loss and fatigue or flu-like symptoms are seen. It is important to note that there are many other causes for enlarged lymph nodes; in fact infection is the most common cause. Night sweats, recurring high-grade fever or low-grade fever can also be present. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system that fights infection in the body; if an infection is present it will cause them to enlarge. Until tests are performed a diagnosis of lymphoma cannot be made.