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There are two types of lymph cancer: Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Both are cancers that begin in the lymph system. Cells in the lymph nodes mutate their DNA so that the cells grow out of control without dying. A tumour may form in the lymph system and can spread through the lymph system, leading to tumours throughout the body.
The lymph system is made of tiny tubes that branch out to all parts of the body. The lymph system carries lymph, which contains lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights off bacteria. There are B cells and T cells that perform different functions.
There are groups of bean shaped organs called lymph nodes that are located everywhere throughout the body. Lymph nodes are found in clusters in the groin, abdomen, pelvis, axilla and neck. The other parts of the lymph system include the spleen, which makes lymphocytes, the thymus, located under the breast bone and the tonsils, located in the throat.
Hodgkin lymphoma is most common in the lymph nodes of the neck and the area behind the breastbone. It can also begin in the axilla, the groin, the abdomen or the pelvis. If it spreads, it spreads to spleen, bone marrow, liver or bone.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma refers to many different types of cancer of the lymph nodes. Like Hodgkin lymphoma, the diseases begin in the groups of tiny, bean shaped organs, known as lymph nodes. They cluster in the same places as in Hodgkin disease. The bone marrow is also affected, which is the spongy tissue within bones that produce platelets, white blood cells and red blood cells.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can start in any collection of lymph glands within the body. It can also start in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, stomach, skin, intestines, brain or thyroid gland. As there are so many different types of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, it is important to know what kind you have because they have different cell types involved and different prognoses.
Some types of lymph cancer are actually cancers that spread from other body areas and aren’t properly lymph cancers. They only spread through the lymph system and settle in the lymph nodes. Pain and swelling of the lymph nodes are some symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma or Hodgkin lymphoma. All other types of cancer in the lymph nodes are considered metastatic.
Some cancers can cause swelling of the lymph nodes. Cancer may start in the lymph nodes or, more commonly, it spreads there from somewhere else. Cancer in the lymph glands is not called “lymph cancer” when it comes from some other body area. It is called by the actual origin of the cancer in the first place.
Lymph nodes are important in staging cancers of any type. It is one of the most important aspects of the TNM system for staging cancers. T stands for the extent of the tumour, N for involvement of lymph nodes and M stands for the presence or absence of metastasis. If no cancer is found in lymph nodes, it is given a rank of N0. Depending on how many lymph areas are involved, the ranking could be N1, N2, or N3.
The treatment for cancer within the lymph nodes depends on many things, such as the size of the tumour, the location of the tumour and whether or not there is metastatic disease in other body areas. Surgery might be used to treat some aspects of metastatic cancer that has spread to lymph nodes. Other treatments for lymph node cancer include stem cell transplantation, chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Stem cell transplantation is among the newest form of therapy and has been found to be very successful for different kinds of lymph cancers.
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