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Symptoms and treatment of lymphoma

Lymphoma is the name given to cancer which originate in white blood cells and pass via the lymph system. There are two broad categories of lymphoma: Hodgkins lymphoma and non Hodgkins lymphoma. Non Hodgkins lymphoma has been further subdivided into three sections: high grade, intermediate grade and low grade, with low grade being the least aggressive form and high grade being the most aggressive.

Examples of Non-Hodgkins lymphomas would be:

  • Burkitts lymphoma, which was originally identified by Denis Parsons Burkitt in Africa.
  • Lymphocytic leukemia in which the cancerous cells affect the part of the bone marrow responsible for white blood cell production.
  • Primary CNS lymphoma which displays as a large tumor in the brain and is most commonly seen in patients with HIV / AIDS.


The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the two types of lymphomas are similar. Swelling of the lymph nodes is the primary symptom which will prompt further examination, however patients may also experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling of other organs, such as the liver or spleen
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Anemia


A diagnosis of lymphoma can only be made by a medical practitioner following a physical examination and tissue biopsy. Further tests may include:

  • X-ray
  • Blood test
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • MRI scan


Hodgkins lymphoma responds well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with a success rate above 90 percent. Treatment for non Hodgkins lymphoma is less successful and is very much dependant on the grade of the lymphoma. Surprisingly it is the high-grade aggressive lymphomas that respond best to treatment. Like Hodgkins lymphoma, non Hodgkins lymphoma is treated primarily with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but bone marrow transplants, surgery and immunotherapy is also occasionally used.


There are many support networks for people and families of those suffering from lymphoma. Information regarding these support networks should be provided by the local medical team during diagnosis and treatment. Internationally, there are several charities which provide advice and support for sufferers of lymphoma. More information can be found on their websites:

Leukaemia CARE

Lymphoma Association

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

By Joanne Smedley

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