Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, the disease-fighting network of nodes connected by vessels throughout the body. Tumors can develop when lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection, begin to multiply uncontrollably, producing cancerous cells that invade other tissues in the body.
Signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma may include swollen yet painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin; abdominal pain or swelling; chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing; persistent fatigue; fever and/or night sweats and weight loss.
While non-Hodgkin's lymphoma generally involves the presence of cancerous lymphocytes in lymph nodes, the Mayo Clinic notes that the disease can also spread and involve tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus and bone marrow.
In most cases, people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma don't have any obvious risk factors. Yet there are risk factors to be recognized. They may include:
- Environmental causes that include exposure to certain chemicals, such as those used to kill insects and weeds. For example, glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, has been linked to cancer. A number of large jury verdicts have been handed down against Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, and more than 13,400 lawsuits are still active against parent company Bayer AG. Kline & Specter is currently handling these lawsuits. The law firm’s more than 40 attorneys, including five doctor/lawyers, help to ensure prompt and expert case evaluations.
- The use of medications that suppress the immune system. One example is patients who have undergone organ transplants and are using immunosuppressive therapy.
- Certain viral and bacterial infections appear to increase the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. These include HIV and Epstein-Barr infection. Bacteria linked non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include the ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori.
- Age is also one possible determinant. While non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can occur at any age, the disease is more prevalent in people 60 and older.
One positive note: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be treated, though success rates depend on how far the disease has progressed. The overall five-year survival rate for people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 71% and the 10-year survival rate is 60%. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are among the successful treatments.
However, it can be fatal if it affects bone marrow to a point at which the body is incapable of making new blood cells. A shortage of white blood cells also increases the chances of an infection, and people with severe bone marrow disease can die from infection.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you experience persistent signs of possible non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, do not wait – contact your doctor.