Lymphoma is a cancer that affect the lymphatic system. Lymphoma arises when developing lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) undergo a malignant change and multiply in an uncontrolled way. Increasing numbers of abnormal lymphocytes, called lymphoma cells accumulate and form collections of cancer cells called tumours in lymph nodes (glands) and other parts of the body. Over time, lymphoma cells replace normal lymphocytes, weakening the immune system's ability to fight infection.
Types of lymphomas
There are many different types of lymphoma which are broadly divided into two main groups:
* Hodgkin's Lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin disease)
and all other types of lymphoma (more than 61), which are grouped together and called
* B-cell or T-cell lymphomas (also known as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma).
Is non Hodgkin's lymphoma common?
In Australia around 3,500 people are diagnosed with a type of B-cell or T-cell lymphoma each year. This makes them the most common type of blood cancer diagnosed. Overall, they represent the sixth most common type of cancer in men, and the fifth most common type of cancer in women.
Who gets lymphomas?
Lymphomas can occur at any age but they are more common in adults over the age of 50 years, who account for over 70 per cent of all cases. Around 40 children (0-14 years) in Australia are diagnosed with lymphoma each year. Lymphomas occur more frequently in men than in women.
What causes lymphomas?
In most cases the exact cause of lymphomas remains unknown but they are thought to result from damage to one or more of the genes that normally control the development of blood cells. Research is occurring all the time into possible causes of this damage and it is thought that alterations in the immune system may play a role in some cases.
People with a weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) due to an inherited immune deficiency disease, HIV infection, and drugs taken to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ, all have an increased chance of developing lymphoma. Also, people that have suffered from vuruses such as Epstein-Barr or Hepatitis C, are at i higher risk of developing NHL. Chemical exposure to both the use and production of pesticides and herbicides also suggests an increased risk of NHL