World Lymphoma Awareness Day is held on 15 September every year. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness of lymphoma, an increasingly common form of cancer. This year, World Lymphoma Awareness Day has launched the ‘Small Things Build Confidence’ campaign.
What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is made up of lymph nodes and lymph vessels over the body that make and store cells mainly lymphocytes that fight infection. Lymphoma is the most common haematological malignancy and 4% of all cancer.
What are the symptoms of lymphoma?
The first sign of lymphoma is often one or more large, swollen lymph nodes. These swollen lymph nodes can be felt under the skin, but are usually not painful. They are often in the neck, groin, armpit or abdomen. Lymph nodes deeper in the body can also become swollen and cause symptoms. For example, swollen lymph nodes around the lungs can cause a cough or trouble breathing.
How to confirm the diagnosis of lymphoma?
In addition to do physical examination and ask about symptoms, other major tests include: lymph node biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, immunohistochemistry, fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) and CT scan, PET scan, or other imaging tests.
Type of Lymphoma
There are two kinds of lymphoma — Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
How is lymphoma treated?
Lymphoma can be treated in different ways depending on the type of lymphoma, it has subtypes and stages. Different mode of treatments are:
Chemotherapy: Usually combination of drugs used after specific time interval called protocol, such as ABVD (combination of 4 drugs), used in Hodgkin’s lymphoma and R-CHOP (5 drugs), used in some types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Immunotherapy: This is a targeted therapy (e.g. Rituximab, one type of monoclonal anti-body that kill cancer cell that carries CD+20 antigen)
Radiation therapy: There are different kinds of radiation therapy available.
Bone marrow transplantation: This is also called "stem cell transplant.
Lymphoma is a type of malignant disease and is increasing in Bangladesh due to the misuse of chemicals and insecticides. Accurate diagnosis by histopathology and immunohistochemistry as well as proper staging of the disease are mandatory for appropriate treatment. Most of the Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a good percentage of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are now curable. In Bangladesh, we have all the facilities to diagnose and treat lymphoma accurately.
The writer is the Head of the Department of Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.