Lymphoma develops in the lymphatic system — part of your immune system. It makes certain white blood cells (lymphocytes) grow and multiply in an abnormal way.

Types of lymphoma

There are 2 types of lymphoma.

  • Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease) — likely to be diagnosed early, usually localised to a group of lymph nodes.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma — likely to be diagnosed late, can become large and spread to other areas.

Causes of lymphoma

The cause of lymphoma is not known. There are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • some health conditions like blood disorders or those that lower your immune system
  • infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and glandular fever
  • radiation exposure, including radiotherapy
  • chemical exposure, such as herbicides and pesticides
  • some drugs used in organ transplants and cancer treatments.

Symptoms of lymphoma

The most common symptom of lymphoma is swollen lymph nodes, usually in the neck, under the arms or in the groin.

Other symptoms can include:

  • tiredness
  • regular fevers
  • excessive sweating, usually at night
  • repeated infections
  • bruising and regular bleeding
  • loss of weight for no reason
  • itchy skin that does not go away.

If lymphoma starts deeper in the body, the symptoms can include:

  • bloating
  • coughing
  • discomfort in the chest and difficulty breathing.

These are also symptoms of many other diseases. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have symptoms you are worried about or do not go away.

Diagnosing lymphoma

Lymphoma is diagnosed from a blood test and a tissue sample (biopsy) from an affected lymph node.

Once the diagnosis of lymphoma is confirmed you may require others test such as a PET scan or CT scan. This is to see if the lymphoma is in one small area or whether it has spread to other lymph node regions.

The amount the disease has spread is called the 'stage' of disease, with Stage 1 being the least spread, and Stage 4 being the most.

Treating lymphoma

The treatment depends on the person and the type of lymphoma. Treatment may include:

  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • targeted therapy
  • stem cell transplants.

Cancer treatments

Cancer support

Once someone has been diagnosed with cancer, we know there are some difficult days ahead. No matter where you are on the cancer pathway, there is always someone to connect with for support.

There are local services available to help make things easier for you and your whānau.

Cancer support (search) — Healthpoint (external link)

There are many benefits of belonging to a support group.

Education and support programmes — Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (external link)

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