Lymphoma is a cancer that impacts the lymphatic system, a crucial component of the body’s immune function. This system consists of a complex network of fluid, lymphocytes, lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, and lymphatic organs such as the spleen, thymus, tonsils, and bone marrow. Additionally, it is present in the stomach, intestines, and skin. There are numerous types and subtypes of lymphoma cancer, with most cases falling into one of two categories: Hodgkin lymphoma, accounting for 10-15% of cases, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Typically, inflamed lymph nodes are tender to the touch and often result from an infection. However, individuals with early-stage lymphoma may not experience any pain. The swelling can occur in areas with a high concentration of lymph nodes, such as the neck, armpits, or groin. Although this symptom alone may not be alarming enough for someone to seek medical attention, it is essential to be aware of this potential sign of lymphoma.
Aches and Discomfort
Individuals with lymphoma may experience localized pain in various areas of their body, depending on which organs are affected by the disease. For example, if the lymphoma is in the brain, it can lead to severe and persistent headaches. If it’s in the stomach, it may result in painful cramps. Other body parts can also be subject to unexplained, intense pain that occurs randomly. In some rare cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, people experience pain after consuming alcohol.
Unexplained fevers, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days, may serve as an early warning sign of lymphoma, though numerous conditions can cause this symptom. What sets lymphoma-related fevers apart is the absence of any other apparent infection. If you experience a fever exceeding 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s essential to consult a physician for further evaluation.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Rapid and substantial weight loss is a common symptom of various types of cancer, including lymphoma. Typically, doctors regard unexplained weight loss as a potential warning sign of cancerous growth. Individuals with cancer frequently experience a loss of about 10% of their original body weight within six months. This weight loss happens because rapidly multiplying abnormal cells place a heightened nutritional demand on the body. Consequently, the body quickly consumes carbohydrates and moves on to burning fat and eventually muscle. Additionally, a decreased appetite can also contribute to further weight loss.
A common complaint among lymphoma patients is excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis. While heavy perspiration during physical activity or in humid weather is normal, night sweats typically indicate an underlying issue. The exact reason why lymphoma leads to hyperhidrosis remains unclear to experts, but one theory suggests that an overactive immune system may be responsible for causing excessive perspiration. Additionally, malignant lymphoma cells are known to produce chemicals that could potentially contribute to excessive sweating and night sweats.
Lymphoma affecting the tissues of the abdomen, stomach, or bowel often results in fluid accumulation in the impacted area due to tissue swelling. Some individuals may experience a sensation of fullness after consuming even the smallest meals, while others may suffer from indigestion, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Severe constipation can also be a symptom for some people. Furthermore, intestinal lymphoma can hinder the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Although these symptoms can be easily confused with those of other conditions, in the case of lymphoma, they manifest without any other signs of infection and over-the-counter remedies typically offer little to no relief.
Shortness of Breath
In some uncommon instances, lymphoma tumors located in the chest may grow to a size that impacts the respiratory system or nearby blood vessels. Consequently, individuals affected by this issue often struggle to take full breaths and frequently experience breathlessness. This problem can become so severe that even sedentary activities leave the person feeling exhausted. Furthermore, lymphoma’s impact on bone marrow can result in a shortage of red blood cells, or anemia, which complicates the process of obtaining sufficient oxygen and makes breathing more difficult.
As lymphoma cells grow and become more aggressive, they release chemical by-products known as cytokines, which can irritate the nerves in the skin. This can cause individuals with the condition to experience itchiness in specific areas or all over their body, seemingly without reason. In rare cases, acne-like clusters called papules may develop in the regions most affected by the cancer. However, visible signs of skin irritation are typically not present. While topical creams and ointments can offer temporary relief, they do not provide long-term respite because the cytokines are released directly into the bloodstream.
Lymphoma, similar to other cancers, often causes individuals to feel weak and fatigued. This is due to the cancer cells placing a heightened nutritional demand on the body, rapidly depleting its energy reserves. Additionally, the immune system uses a significant amount of energy as it continuously battles against these cancerous invaders.
Increased Susceptibility to Infections
As lymphoma progresses and the abnormal cancer cells spread beyond the lymphatic system, the body’s ability to ward off infections becomes increasingly compromised. Consequently, individuals with lymphoma are susceptible to contracting infections that present a broad range of symptoms. Excessive and prolonged illness, often caused by pathogens that a healthy body could effortlessly combat, typically arises in advanced stages of the disease or when a patient has been unable or unwilling to undergo treatment.
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