Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is actually a group of cancers that are known to affect a specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. These types of cancers typically originate in an organ of the lymphatic system, such as the lymph nodes, tonsils, or spleen. If the condition is not treated in a timely manner, the condition can spread to other areas of the body. The number of cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma appearing in the United States has increased dramatically over the last several decades and the condition is now the 5th most common cancer in the nation.
The most common symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are common symptoms of many other conditions. The initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, reddened or itchy patches on the skin, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss. The lymph nodes in the neck, groin, and underarms may swell, but will not cause the individual any pain.
Because these symptoms are common to many other conditions as well, blood tests will be needed to narrow the possible conditions that may have caused the symptoms. If non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is suspected, then more tests may be needed for a positive diagnosis. These include x-rays, CAT scans, PET scans, and MRI. Each of these testing methods creates detailed images of the inside of the body, allowing the physician to see what may be causing the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.
There are three different classes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which classifies the different varieties of the condition according to their aggressiveness. Indolent varieties of the condition are considered low grade or slowly progressing. Varieties classified as aggressive are considered to be the medium grade of aggressiveness for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The last and most serious class is named highly aggressive because the onset and progression of the condition is extremely rapid and can become very severe within a short period of time.
There are a number of factors that medical professionals and researchers believe may be associated with the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The chance of developing the condition becomes greater as an individual gets older. Any individual with a chronically weakened immune system, such as those with advanced HIV, inherited immunity deficiencies, or taking immunosuppressant medications, are also at a greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has been linked to long term exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene, with the risk increasing with the length of time that the individual may have been exposed.
Not every person who is exposed to the factors develops non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and some individuals who have been exposed to multiple factors for long periods of time never develop the condition. On the other hand, some individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have never experienced any of the risk factors associated with the condition. Although the number of cases of the condition diagnosed by physicians has steadily increased over the last few decades, researchers are still unsure why the cases have increased and what exactly causes cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to develop in the first place.
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