Lymphoma Awareness Month: Let’s Talk Types, Symptoms, and Support

September 7, 2021
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In the United States, an estimated 962,304 people are living with or in remission from lymphoma, according to the National Cancer Institute. Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops in the lymph nodes and tissues of the lymphatic system. As with any other cancer, being diagnosed with lymphoma can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. Those feelings may continue even after treatment has ended. 

For support, some lymphoma patients have turned to MyLifeLine, Cancer Support Community’s free online community for people impacted by cancer. MyLifeLine members can join any of 14 different discussion boards to exchange stories and offer comforting words. As one lymphoma survivor shared on our Coping With Side Effects board:

“This type of forum can help to relieve some of our anxiety. So don't be afraid to introduce yourself to a fellow cancer survivor to swap stories. We are not alone, and several of us have the same concerns.”

MyLifeLine members can also create a private website where they can blog about their journey and receive support from friends and family. Dan, a lymphoma survivor, used MyLifeLine as a therapeutic outlet during his cancer journey:

“I wrote for no one but myself. It was such a key part of my journey and hopefully my success story.”

You may be reading this blog because you are a lymphoma patient or care for someone who has lymphoma. Or perhaps you are at risk for the disease. Read on as we share some key things to know about lymphoma in recognition of Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

 

Types of Lymphoma

Lymphomas begin in the white blood cells (lymphocytes) and affect the body’s ability to fight infection. Bone marrow makes red blood cells, blood platelets, and white blood cells. Lymphomas sometimes start from bone marrow lymphocytes.

There are 2 common types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a blood cancer that begins in a specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system. HL occurs when a healthy white blood cell becomes abnormal, dividing and making copies of itself in the body.

There are 2 main types of Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Classical Hodgkin lymphoma: This is the most common type of HL. Classical Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 95 percent of HL cases. It is marked by an abnormal B-cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell.
  • Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma: This type of lymphoma accounts for about 5 percent of HL cases and is more common in older people. It is marked by abnormal B-cells. Very few of these B-cells are Reed-Sternberg cells.

Approximately 9,000 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma each year in the United States. Among them, 4,000 are children, teenagers, and young adults.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is the name of a group of blood cancers that develop in the white blood cells (leukocytes). NHL can be either indolent (slow growing) or aggressive (fast growing). NHL is one of the most common cancers in the United States.

There are over 60 subtypes of NHL, but most fall under these 2 groups:

  • B-Cell Lymphomas: These make up most (about 85 percent) of the NHL cases in the United States. The majority of B-cell lymphomas are either diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) or follicular lymphoma (FL). DLBCL accounts for about 1 out of every 3 cases of NHL. It is a fast-growing lymphoma, but it usually responds well to treatment. It can sometimes be cured entirely with chemotherapy. FL is often slow growing. It can be treated but is difficult to cure.
  • T-Cell Lymphomas: These make up less than 15 percent of NHL cases in the United States. T-cell lymphomas can be aggressive (fast growing) or indolent (slow growing).

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 4 percent of all cancer cases in the United States. More than 95 percent of cases occur in adults, but certain types are common among children.

Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma have many similar signs and symptoms. Be sure to talk with your health care provider if you notice anything unusual.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abdominal swelling – A tumor or large collection of fluid may cause the abdomen to become swollen and tender. Swelling may block the passage of feces. This causes abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Coughing and breathing issues – Certain types of lymphoma can develop into large tumors in the chest. If the tumor presses on the windpipe, it causes trouble breathing.
  • Fatigue and loss of appetite – Sometimes the only signs of the disease are constant tiredness and not feeling hungry.
  • Fever – A high temperature may occur over several days or weeks.
  • Lumps – Painless lumps or swollen lymph nodes may develop in the neck, underarm, or groin area.
  • Night sweats – You may wake up drenched in sweat.
  • Weight loss – You may lose weight without dieting or trying to lose weight.
  • Central nervous system changes – NHL may cause severe headaches, changes in personality, difficulty moving parts of the body, or seizures.

Risk factors for lymphoma can include:

  • Infections that weaken the immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Infections that affect lymphocytes, including the Epstein-Barr virus
  • Infections that activate the immune system, such as Hepatitis C

Learn about new options for relapsed or refractory DLBCL

 

More Lymphoma Resources and Support

If you are living with lymphoma or are a caregiver to someone with lymphoma, these resources can help ease the burden of your journey.