Information for Patients
Also called: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Lymphoma is a cancer of a part of the immune system called the lymph system. There are many types of lymphoma. One type is Hodgkin disease. The rest are called non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas begin when a type of white blood cell, called a T cell or B cell, becomes abnormal. The cell divides again and again, making more and more abnormal cells. These abnormal cells can spread to almost any other part of the body. Most of the time, doctors don't know why a person gets non-Hodgkin lymphoma. You are at increased risk if you have a weakened immune system or have certain types of infections.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause many symptoms, such as
- Swollen, painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Soaking night sweats
- Coughing, trouble breathing or chest pain
- Weakness and tiredness that don't go away
- Pain, swelling or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
Your doctor will diagnose lymphoma with a physical exam, blood tests, a chest x-ray, and a biopsy. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, biological therapy, or therapy to remove proteins from the blood. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells. Biologic therapy boosts your body's own ability to fight cancer. If you don't have symptoms, you may not need treatment right away. This is called watchful waiting.
NIH: National Cancer Institute
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Waldenström macroglobulinemia Waldenström macroglobulinemia is a rare blood cell cancer characterized by an excess of abnormal white blood cells called lymphoplasmacytic cells in the bone marrow. This condition is classified as a lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. The abnormal cells have characteristics of both white blood cells (lymphocytes) called B cells and of more mature cells derived from B cells known as plasma cells. These abnormal cells produce excess amounts of IgM, a type of protein known as an immunoglobulin; the overproduction of this large protein is how the condition got its name ("macroglobulinemia").Waldenström macroglobulinemia usually begins in a person's sixties and is a slow-growing (indolent) cancer. Some affected individuals have elevated levels of IgM and lymphoplasmacytic cells but no symptoms of the condition; in these cases, the disease is usually found incidentally by a blood test taken for another reason. These individuals are diagnosed with smoldering (or asymptomatic) Waldenström macroglobulinemia. It can be several years before this form of the condition progresses to the symptomatic form.Individuals with symptomatic Waldenström macroglobulinemia can experience general symptoms such as fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Several other signs and symptoms of the condition are related to the excess IgM, which can thicken blood and impair circulation, causing a condition known as hyperviscosity syndrome. Features related to hyperviscosity syndrome include bleeding in the nose or mouth, blurring or loss of vision, headache, dizziness, and difficulty coordinating movements (ataxia). In some affected individuals, the IgM proteins clump together in the hands and feet, where the body temperature is cooler than at the center of the body. These proteins are then referred to as cryoglobulins, and their clumping causes a condition known as cryoglobulinemia. Cryoglobulinemia can lead to pain in the hands and feet or episodes of Raynaud phenomenon, in which the fingers and toes turn white or blue in response to cold temperatures. The IgM protein can also build up in organs such as the heart and kidneys, causing a condition called amyloidosis, which can lead to heart and kidney problems. Some people with Waldenström macroglobulinemia develop a loss of sensation and weakness in the limbs (peripheral neuropathy). Doctors are unsure why this feature occurs, although they speculate that the IgM protein attaches to the protective covering of nerve cells (myelin) and breaks it down. The damaged nerves cannot carry signals normally, leading to neuropathy.Other features of Waldenström macroglobulinemia are due to the accumulation of lymphoplasmacytic cells in different tissues. For example, accumulation of these cells can lead to an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly), spleen (splenomegaly), or lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy). In the bone marrow, the lymphoplasmacytic cells interfere with normal blood cell development, causing a shortage of normal blood cells (pancytopenia). Excessive tiredness (fatigue) due to a reduction in red blood cells (anemia) is common in affected individuals.People with Waldenström macroglobulinemia have an increased risk of developing other cancers of the blood or other tissues.