Every year on 15th September the world lymphoma day is celebrated in order to educate patients regarding this diagnosis and to help them navigate through this problem. Lymphoma is a type of cancer of lymphatic’s, if we look at how common this condition is we would be surprised to see that every year 20,000 patients of lymphoma are diagnosed in Telugu speaking states and this ranges between children to adults most of the time lymphomas can present in younger age group, teenage group or 20 to 30 or later groups i.e., 50 plus to 60 plus age group.
Most of lymphoma patients present with lumps that is enlargement of lymphnodes in the neck, arm pit or groin or sometime in the abdomen but many other times they can mimic like any common diseases like non resolving fevers or weight loss, sweating or itching of the skin, with these symptoms patient tend to go from pillar to post to different doctors and may diagnose as skin condition or some make a diagnose as tuberculosis, so lymphoma and tuberculosis are quite common and closer diagnosis, one has to confirm diagnosis before starting treatment.
Some times this could be revealed by simple investigations like blood tests were patient can have a low hemoglobin, low white cells or low platelets and further tests like bone marrow test can confirm the diagnosis of lymphoma. Once we have these lumps, we can confirm the diagnosis by doing a biopsy of the specific lymph node fine needle aspiration (FNAC) can be misleading and best to be avoided. Lymphoid cells are very vital to the body’s immune system hence in lymphoma patient, patients can be more susceptible to infections and may present with some kind of infection to the general physician.
If you have above symptoms you should consult a doctor immediately and do not take steroids at any cost before confirming the diagnosis. The steroid medications given for various other conditions can reduce the symptoms of lymphoma and we will not be able to confirm the diagnosis that easily, by all means that it will mask the symptoms.
Generally lymphoma is categorized into Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma they have got a slightly different growth patterns some are slow growing cancers some are fast growing, you call it as low grade lymphoma vs high grade lymphoma, the treatment depends up on type of disease and the stage of the disease, if the lymphoma is only in one particular area, we tend to remove it and give radiotherapy to that area, ifits in more than two areas we would consider chemotherapy.
Majority of the time treatment for lymphoma is chemotherapy or immunotherapy which is well tolerated by most and is given as an outpatient, one most important thing patient to remember is lymphoma is potentially curable disease and lots of patients with lymphoma present to doctor in stage IV disease, so one should not worry about stage 4 status they do have the clearance of the disease in majority of the groups.
There are lots new different treatment available other than the standard chemotherapy we have got antibody therapy like Rituximab and Brentuximab. There are immunotherapies, targeted therapies small molecules and bone marrow transplant in a refractory patients.
There are new therapies like CAR T Cell therapy which is a very advanced in patients with refractory disease, this is showing a promising results, hence if you had a lymphoma do not worry about it, if you’re the one who are having the above specific symptoms to have a blood check, specialist consultation to confirm the diagnosis and fight and cure this disease.
Dr Padmaja Lokireddy
Sr. Consultant Haemato Oncologist & Bone Marrow Transplant,
Apollo Cancer Centre, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad.