What Is Lymphatic Cancer (Lymphoma) and Its Treatment Effects?

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Title : What Is Lymphatic Cancer (Lymphoma) and Its Treatment Effects?
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What Is Lymphatic Cancer (Lymphoma) and Its Treatment Effects?

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Lymphoma is the cancer of lymph nodes. Like all cancers, it is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the vicinity of lymph nodes. Lymph nodes can be viewed as stopping points of lymphatic system. Lymphatic system basically carries fighting soldiers to whatever areas of your body whenever the body area is invaded or requires help to fight foreign intruders. The lymphatic system is a network of 'highways' starting from below the chin to the back of the neck, to underneath the armpits and then to the groin area and connects to the spinal cord.

Lymphoma develops as lumps at the node areas, typically behind the neck, armpits and groin areas. Not all lymphomas grow in detectable areas. Once a lump develops careful monitoring is required. Whenever a lump occurs, it can be caused by

1) viral infection, which can be easily cured by a course of antibiotics and usually last only a week or two,

2) Tuberculosis, which detected at early stages can easily be cured, and which will require more specialized medical care and treatment,

3) Cancer, which can only be confirmed by a biopsy. If there are several lumps that have been growing for some time, it is vital to get the lumps checked out by a Hematologist. Hematologists are specialized doctors dealing with blood disorders. Lymphoma is considered as a blood disorder. For other types of cancer, one would go to an oncologist.

Other noticeable signs are cold sweats at night, lost of appetite, drastic weight loss and lethargy. Sometimes these signs do not appear as in my case except for the lumps on base of the neck.

Like many other cancers, lymphomas are quite complicated and have different types and subtypes but generally lymphoma can be divided into two broad categories, namely Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins. Hodgkins lymphoma is much more curable and the prognosis is very good.

Conventional treatment applies for Lymphoma - surgery and radiation - if the cancer is fairly isolated typically only in stage 1 (more on staging later). Chemotherapy followed by radiation for cancer that is not so widespread in the body. If the cancer is in a fairly advanced stage as in stage 3 and 4, then a full course of Chemotherapy treatment is required, as was in my case.

Staging in lymphoma is different from other types of cancer. Stage 1 is cancer found on one part in one section of the body either above or below the diaphragm. If the cancer has appeared in more than one place on same side of the diaphragm, then it has gone to stage 2. Stage 3 means the cancer has spread to the abdomen and groin areas above and below the diaphragm. Stage 4 means that the cancer has been detected in the bone marrow. Stage 3 is already considered advanced stage.

Once a biopsy has confirmed that a tumour is cancerous, a CT scan is usually performed to stage the cancer. In lymphomas, a bone marrow tap is usually done to check if the bone marrow carries the cancer as well. CT scans are also performed at regular intervals during Chemotherapy to determine the treatment's efficacy. If the current treatment is not effective, doctors will switch to another Chemotherapy regimen. At the end of the treatment, a final CT scan and PET scan are conducted to confirm absence of cancerous cells. The words "No cancerous cells detected" are the sweetest words one can ask for.

Chemotherapy treatment can last between six to eight months and a month more to recuperate from the onslaught of Chemotherapy. Most people will give up work to focus on the treatment. As in my case, Chemotherapy was once every two weeks. The first week immediately after Chemotherapy is the worst.

Most of the time, I was too weak to keep awake. As time passed, strength returned and by the second week, I could manage a short walk. After that the whole process starts all over again.

Towards the end of the Chemotherapy, the body would have been pretty badly savaged by the Chemo poison. One often lands up feeling very different after Chemotherapy, and it takes months to get back toany normalcy. The speed of recovery from Chemotherapy really depends on one's physical and mental strength.

Chemotherapy, as it is often called - "It is a marathon"



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