Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system that can affect children of any age but is more common in teens and adolescents. The lymphatic system is a crucial part of our immune system. It is composed of a network of lymph vessels, nodes and ducts as well as organs such as the spleen and tonsils. Lymphoma begins in primitive lymphocytes and can occur in different parts of the body.
The primary symptom of lymphoma is swollen lymph nodes under the arms or in the neck, chest or abdomen. Sometimes the spleen or liver is enlarged, which your child’s doctor will be able to feel. Your child may have other symptoms of lymphoma that include:
The lymphatic system’s normal function is to recognize and defend the body against microorganisms and infection. Lymphoma develops when normal cells mutate and grow rapidly. Lymphoma is not contagious or inherited from generation to generation.
Not all lymph node enlargements are caused by lymphoma. Most causes include infection and inflammation. If your child has an enlarged lymph node, his or her doctor can evaluate and observe it for several weeks to see if it decreases in size. If the lymph node does not get smaller, your child may be referred to a cancer specialist for more thorough testing.
The main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Each type affects different blood cells in the lymphatic system, and each requires different treatment.
One of the most curable forms of cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma is named after the doctor who first described the disease. The two main types of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma are:
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a general term for a group of cancers that includes:
Doctors at Riley at IU Health will perform a biopsy of the enlarged lymph node to make a definite diagnosis of lymphoma. Other tests and exams include:
These tests are important to determine the type or subtype and stage (advancement) of lymphoma, which determines the treatment and prognosis (prospects for survival).
The goals of treatment are to achieve remission and total disappearance of lymphoma. Any of these treatments may be provided alone or in combination:
Doctors at Riley at IU Health use the minimum treatment necessary to reduce long-term side effects.
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The Cancer & Blood Diseases Department at Riley at IU Health conducts research to find better ways to diagnose and treat lymphoma. Research includes collecting data on treatment outcomes and clinical trials for new medicines. Ask your child's doctor for more information about current research studies and eligibility for clinical trials.
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