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Living Fully with Lymphoma

Did you know there are an estimated 879,242 people living with, or in remission from, lymphoma in the US? When we're aware of lymphoma, we can spot warning signs sooner and go to the doctor faster.

What IS LYMPHOMA?

Lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells which affects the immune system (the body’s germ-fighting system). It primarily starts in a part of the immune system that fights infections and moves fluid around the body (the lymph system). When people have lymphoma, their white blood cells become abnormal and grow out of control.2

Types of lymphoma

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

HL shows up in the neck, armpits, and chest. It tends to follow a more expected pattern, which makes it simpler for doctors to spot and treat compared to NHL.3

NHL is more like the big umbrella term. It includes a bunch of different types, kind of like a bunch of ice cream flavors under one brand. Some common subtypes include:

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)
  • Follicular lymphoma (FL)
  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL)
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Marginal zone lymphoma (MZL)

     

These are several examples, but there are actually many more subtypes that are unique and have their own treatment approaches.

Can I develop lymphoma?

There are many types of lymphoma, and the disease can affect anyone, but certain factors may increase the risk.* These include:

📅 Age
Lymphoma is more common in older adults, although it can occur at any age.

⚧️ Gender
Some types of lymphoma are more common in men, while others may affect women more.

🦠 Weak Immune System
People with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, or those who have undergone organ transplants have a higher risk.

👨‍👩‍👧 Family History
Having a close relative (e.g., a parent, sibling, or child) with lymphoma may slightly increase the risk.

😷 Other
Exposure to certain chemicals or infections.

*Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get the disease.

Signs of lymphoma

The signs and symptoms of lymphoma can vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. However, some common signs and symptoms include:  

Swollen lymph nodes

These are bumps under your skin in places like your neck, armpits, or groin. They don’t usually hurt.

Fatigue

Feeling tired or weak even after rest.

Night sweats

Sweating a lot at night, so much that your clothes or bed sheets get wet.

Losing weight

Losing weight without trying and not feeling hungry as usual.

Pain

Some people might feel pain where their lymph nodes are swollen or in their stomach.

Get Tested

Finding lymphoma early may make treatment easier and more effective, which is why it is important to regularly schedule appointments with your doctor.

Early detection can come from symptoms or when your doctor does a check-up. Blood tests can sometimes catch signs of lymphoma before symptoms appear. This means the doctors will take a small sample of blood to see if they find signs of an infection or anything strange.

There are other ways doctors can spot lymphoma, including:

  • During a general checkup: They start by examining the person, feeling for swollen glands or anything unusual.
  • By asking questions: They ask about symptoms and family history to understand what’s going on.
  • Scans: They take pictures inside the body using machines to see if there are any lumps or growths.
  • Biopsy: They take a tiny piece of tissue from a swollen gland or lump and look at it closely under a microscope to see if there are any bad cells.
  • Bone Marrow Test: Sometimes, they also take a small bit of bone to check if there are any bad cells there, too.

know your health team

Knowing who you’re seeing at the doctor’s office may help you ask the right questions.

Hematologists
focus on problems with your blood and parts of your body that help produce blood. 

Oncologists
diagnose and treat all kinds of cancer.

Hematologist-Oncologist
 is a doctor who specializes in treating cancers of the blood.

treatment options

After receiving news of a lymphoma diagnosis, it’s important to discuss with your doctor what treatment options may be right for you. During your appointment, ask as many questions as possible and bring a supportive friend or family member to take notes for you. 

Some lymphoma treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It’s a common treatment and can be taken as pills, through a tube, or as shots.
  • Radiation Therapy: Uses strong rays to kill cancer cells. It’s often used for early-stage lymphomas or to shrink tumors before other treatments.
  • Immunotherapy: Helps your body’s defense system fight cancer. It can involve special proteins or cells that target and kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted Therapy: Targets specific things in cancer cells to stop them from growing. 
  • Stem Cell Transplant: For tough cases, it replaces damaged bone marrow with healthy cells to help your body make healthy blood cells.
  • Watchful Waiting (sometimes known as ‘active surveillance’): Sometimes, doctors watch the cancer closely without starting treatment right away. They’ll start treatment if it starts to get worse.
  • Clinical Studies: These test new treatments to see if they work better than what’s already available. Joining a study can give you access to new treatments that might be a better fit for you.

clinical research studies

By participating in clinical research, you have the opportunity to try new potential treatments for lymphoma. They are especially important for communities of color, who have historically been left out of treatment decisions in the past. 

Here are a few benefits of participating:

  • Access to new treatments before they are available to everyone
  • Close monitoring of your health by professionals 
  • Helping to improve treatment for people with similar conditions now and in the future

there is hope

Wynn has survived late stage lymphoma twice through chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. He is sharing his story to let other people know that the “journey is much bigger than the diagnosis.” 

Confused about the difference between Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
This article may help.

 Learn about events happening near you to connect with people like you

Are you or a loved one living with lymphoma?
Find online chat rooms, caregiver support, podcasts and more.

Coping with cancer can be emotionally draining.
These resources can help you prioritize your mental health. 

Join the NOWINCLUDED CANCER CIRCLE

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  • Connection with people who may share your lived experiences
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