Cancer related to lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells is called lymphoma. Lymphocytes move around in the body through lymphatic system, which comprises of lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow and other lymphoid tissue. Primary function of white blood cells (lymphocytes) is to fight infection. Lymphomas are classified in two categories, namely non Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.
Follicular lymphoma is one type of non Hodgkin lymphoma. It is a slow growing malignancy. In some cases the disease may remain asymptomatic for years. Follicular lymphoma usually is incurable cancer, however, a person can live long as it grows slowly and some patients may not need any treatment.If at all treatment is necessary, the prognosis is favorable.
Possible Causes Of Follicular Lymphoma
The cause of follicular lymphoma and other types of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma are unknown. Various factors are suspected to be associated with its development. It is not considered to be inherited disease as many other cancers are. Women are slightly more afflicted to it than men.
The disease is usually seen in people over the age of 60years. It is more often seen in Caucasians than in people of other ethnic origin. People are likely to suffer from follicular lymphoma if they are having HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, EB syndrome, lupus and other immune deficiency conditions.
Cases are also observed in people who are frequently exposed to herbicides and other cancer causing chemicals and fertilizers. Person who has taken previous treatment for Hodgkin’s disease has risk for development of follicular lymphoma.
Signs And Symptoms Of Follicular Lymphoma
Clinically most patients suffering from follicular lymphoma present with enlargement of lymph node in neck, armpit or groin area. The reason is accumulation of B- lymphocytes in lymph nodes. The swelling is painless. In majority of cases, the swelling persist for years often increasing and decreasing in size. Some patients may have enlargement of liver and spleen.
Sometimes there is extra lymphatic presentation in gastrointestinal tract, skin and lungs. The growth may not present any symptoms, but its large size may block the flow of gastric content or compress the blood vessel in the organs located near the enlarged lymph node. Patent may have fever, fatigue, night sweats and unexplained weight loss.
Treatment Options For Follicular Lymphoma
Once the disease is diagnosed by the doctor, treatment will depend on many factors. He will evaluate the severity of symptoms, its progression, age, and health of the patient. If there are no presenting symptoms, he may recommend wait and watch approach.
In many cases follicular lymphoma is slow to grow and may take many years for progression of disease, such cases need regular monitoring and physical examination by the physician. The symptoms that warrant immediate treatment are unexplained weight loss, fever, night sweats, low white cell count.
- Treatment options include radiation therapy. The response to radiation therapy in the early stages is promising. In some cases this therapy cures the condition.
- Chemotherapy is another option for killing the growth of cancerous cells. In some cases it may be accompanied in combination with radiation therapy.
- Bone marrow transplantation is normally reserved in people with recurrence after treatment.