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About 80,470 people (with a ratio of roughly 55% of men and 45% of women) are diagnosed with lymph node cancer each year in the United States, making it one of the more common forms of cancer that you’ll hear about.
One reason it’s so common is that there are many various kinds of lymph node cancers and they can develop in different areas of the body.
Lymph nodes are small, bean-sized nodules located throughout your body, but they often cluster together in specific locations, such as your groin, armpits, and neck. These clusters of lymph nodes are what we typically refer to when we talk about our lymph nodes.
This guide covers everything you need to know about lymph node cancer and how it may affect you or someone you love.
What Is the Lymph System?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that carry fluid from the tissue spaces back into the bloodstream. They also produce and transport lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection. The lymphatic system includes the following organs:
- Bone marrow
- Lymph nodes
Lymph Node Cancer
Lymph node cancer occurs when malignant cells are found in the lymph nodes and other lymphoid tissues, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This type of cancer affects men more than women, and your risk increases with age.
Fortunately, many people with this cancer respond well to treatment, which can prevent or slow the growth of this type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Lymph nodes are part of your immune system and contain B cells, T cells, and plasma cells (which make antibodies). Sometimes the lymph nodes become cancerous, which means they are made up of cancer cells instead of healthy cells.
If you’re being treated for cancer, you might experience symptoms related to your lymph nodes and want to learn more about them; read on to find out everything you need to know about lymph node cancer in the groin and other areas.
What Causes Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. It’s more common in men than women and is usually diagnosed in people over 50 years old. There are many different types of lymphoma, but the most common type is called non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes lymphoma, but they do know that it starts when abnormal cells grow in your lymph nodes. These cells can then spread and form tumors that grow throughout your body.
If you are concerned about cancer of the lymph nodes being terminal, you should see your doctor for a physical exam and blood tests as soon as possible.
If your doctor finds swollen or enlarged cancer lymph nodes in your neck or groin area, he may refer you to a specialist who can diagnose if you have cancerous or pre-cancerous cells in those areas.
What Are the Symptoms of Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes and other places where immune cells are found. There are over 50 different kinds of lymphoma, but they all have similar symptoms.
The signs and symptoms depend on where the cancer is located. Symptoms can include:
- Painless swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin area
- A feeling of heaviness in the above-mentioned areas
- Fever, chills, or night sweats
- A general feeling of being unwell
Risks and Causes of Lymphoma
There are several elements that can raise the risk of lymphoma. Some of these include:
A Person’s Age
While some lymphoma kinds are more frequently diagnosed in individuals above the age of 50, others are more frequently found in young adults.
As indicated by research, lymph nodes in males are much more common as compared to females who are diagnosed with lymphoma.
A Compromised Immune System
People with immune system disorders or those who take immunosuppressive medications are more likely to develop lymphoma. In simpler terms, their body is not strong enough to fight off diseases as compared to other individuals.
Acquiring Specific Infections
The Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection are two infections linked to a higher risk of lymphoma.
How Is Lymphoma Diagnosed?
If you’re wondering how to detect cancer in lymph nodes, it can be done in several ways, including:
A Physical Exam
If you have any suspicious lumps in your neck, chest, abdomen, or groin area and they don’t go away on their own or they come back again and again after being removed, this may be a sign of lymph node cancer. However, the best way to know for sure if you have lymph node cancer is to see a doctor and have the specialist examine the swelling so that an accurate prognosis can be made.
Taking a Lymph Node Out for Analysis
In order to remove all or part of a lymph node for laboratory testing, your doctor may advise performing a lymph node biopsy surgery. Advanced tests can detect the sorts of cells implicated and whether lymphoma cells are present.
A Blood Test
Your doctor can learn more about the diagnosis of your condition through blood tests that count the number of cells in a sample of your blood.
Removing a Bone Marrow Sample for Analysis
A needle is inserted into your hipbone during a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy procedure to remove a sample of your bone marrow.
Procuring Samples to Detect Lymphoma Cells
Imaging exams Imaging tests may be suggested by your doctor to check for lymphoma symptoms in other parts of your body. CT, MRI, and positron emission tomography are a few possible tests (PET).
What are the Prognosis and Survival Rates for Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes. There are two major types of lymphoma, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s. The prognosis for both types of lymphoma is good if it is diagnosed early.
However, when diagnosed at later stages, the prognosis becomes poorer. Cancer cells can travel from other parts of the body to settle in the lymph nodes. If cancer cells get into the nodes, they start to grow and spread more quickly than other types of cancers.
If cancer cells get into your lymph nodes, you will need treatment right away because this could cause the cancer cells to spread very quickly throughout your body.
What Are the Side Effects of Treatment?
Many people don’t realize that treatment of lymph node cancer can have side effects, just like any other treatment. Cancer treatments can cause the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
How Can I Cope With Treatment Side Effects?
Treatment side effects can be discouraging and painful, but there are a number of different coping techniques that you can use to reduce the discomfort. For example, if your lymph nodes are swollen and painful, try taking a warm bath.
If this doesn’t help, talk with your doctor about other ways to reduce the swelling. They may suggest that you ice your lymph nodes to reduce the pain or they may prescribe medication such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants.
The important thing is to not give up and schedule regular appointments with your doctor. Each patient requires a different treatment plan and sometimes it requires trial and error to find the right one.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Lymphoma?
As with all cancer treatments, patients can expect several side effects – some more severe than others. Here is what you can expect if you or a loved one is getting lymphoma treatment:
The incapacity to become pregnant is called infertility. Unless the gonads are protected during treatment, radiation therapy to the pelvic area can result in fertility issues.
Additionally, low sperm counts or ovarian damage may be more common in teenagers and adults who underwent chemotherapy. ABVD chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma carries a minimal risk of infertility, but BEACOPP treatment carries a substantially higher risk.
Infertility may result from a transplant of bone marrow or stem cells. After a transplant, it is uncommon but not impossible for survivors to get pregnant.
Before beginning treatment, patients who are thinking about starting a family should discuss fertility preservation with their doctor.
Acute myeloid leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer are among the secondary cancers that some Hodgkin lymphoma survivors are more likely to acquire, particularly after receiving certain chemotherapy treatments like BEACOPP.
Because of the current treatments’ lower dangers, the likelihood of developing secondary cancer will probably decline in the future. By reducing or avoiding other risk factors, such as smoking, people can reduce their risk of getting secondary cancer.
At age 40 or eight years following treatment, whichever comes first, people who have chest radiation therapy should start getting routine breast cancer screenings.
Heart and Lung Injury
Chemotherapy patients who got anthracyclines (doxorubicin) or bleomycin had an increased risk of developing heart issues as well as lung damage. In addition to damaging the lungs, radiation therapy for the chest can significantly raise the risk of heart disease.
Limiting additional risk factors that could result in heart damage is crucial for people who have had radiation therapy to the chest.
This includes quitting smoking, engaging in regular exercise, monitoring and maintaining appropriate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and making nutritious eating choices.
The thyroid gland may experience issues as a result of radiation therapy to the neck, most frequently hypothyroidism. When the thyroid hormone, which controls metabolism, is produced insufficiently by the body, hypothyroidism results.
A blood test can be used to diagnose this condition, and regular thyroid hormone supplementation can be used to treat it.
Mental Health Issues
Hodgkin lymphoma survivors are more likely to experience depression and other emotional problems, most frequently in the year following the conclusion of therapy.
If patients or caregivers notice depression signs, they should consider speaking to a doctor about prescribing antidepressants or setting up an appointment with a mental health specialist.
If you feel that your loved one requires round-the-clock care that family members are unable to provide, consider reaching out to All American Hospice.
Many times, having professionally trained staff does not only improve the physical health of the patient but also their mental health.