Lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the body's immune system or lymphatic system. The lymph system is made up of thin tubes that branch into all parts of the body. Lymph vessels carry lymph, a colorless, watery fluid that contains white blood cells called lymphocytes. Along the network of vessels are groups of small, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes, found in clusters in the underarm, pelvis, neck and abdomen. The lymph nodes make and store infection-fighting cells. Several organs are also involved in the body's defense against infection, including the spleen (an organ in the upper abdomen), the thymus (a small organ beneath the breastbone), and the tonsils (an organ in the throat).
Since lymph tissue is found throughout the body, lymphoma can begin almost anywhere and can spread to almost any other part of the body. The multidisciplinary approach offered through the Continuum Cancer Centers of New York Comprehensive Thoracic Oncology Program is, therefore, especially well suited to the treatment of lymphoma.
Two Kinds of Lymphoma
Lymphoma comes in two common forms:
Hodgkin's Disease, which most commonly affects young adults and sometimes people older than 55 years of age, and makes up about 15% of all lymphomas. The disease typically occurs in the lymph nodes above the collarbone, and in younger adults is more likely to appear in the chest cavity between the lungs.
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which occurs mostly in older adults with an average age of about 67. It makes up about 85% of all lymphomas. While this form of the disease occurs most often in the lymph nodes above the collarbone, it can also appear in the nodes in the abdomen. The non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are less predictable and more apt to spread.
The chance of recovery and choice of treatment depend on the stage of the cancer (whether it is just in one area or has spread throughout the body), the size of the swollen areas, the results of blood tests, the type of symptoms, and the patient's age, sex and overall condition. Typical treatment options include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.