Lymphoma is a form of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. There are many types of lymphoma, but they are usually separated into two main categories: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Life expectancy in people with lymphoma depends on the type of lymphoma as well as other factors.
Lymphoma develops in the lymphatic system, which is the part of the immune system responsible for protecting the body from viruses, bacteria and other harmful intrusions. When immune system cells begin to grow and multiply too rapidly, lymphoma may result.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is marked by lymphatic system cells that grow too rapidly or in an abnormal fashion. They may then spread beyond the lymphatic system, eventually impairing the body’s ability to fight off infection. So far, the causes of this type of lymphoma are unknown. However, the development of abnormal B cells--lymph cells that help to fight infection--seems to be a key factor.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is another type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. This type of lymphoma is marked by tumors that grow from white blood cells called lymphocytes. According to the Mayo Clinic, people are five times more likely to develop this type of lymphoma than Hodgkin’s disease. So far, no one knows what stimulates the lymphocytes into abnormal growth.
At the earliest stages of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you may not experience any symptoms at all. When symptoms do develop, they may include swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit area and neck; these swellings are not be accompanied by pain. You may also experience fever, fatigue, weight loss and chest pain. Some people may have a cough, difficulty breathing, itchy skin, and pain or swelling in the abdominal area. The symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the same, but those affected may also experience chills and increased susceptibility to alcoholic beverages with Hodgkin's. Some may even feel pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.
Both types of lymphoma may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or transplantation of bone marrow or stem cells--all aimed at destroying cancerous cells. If you have this type of lymphoma, the treatment method your doctor chooses will likely depend on a number of factors, including your age, symptoms and overall health status.The stage of the disease you’ve reached may also influence treatment decisions. Additionally, there are other options for treating non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, including observation, which involves watching slow-to-grow lymphomas and treating them only if necessary; biotherapy, using a special antibody to help the immune system kill cancer cells; radioimmunotherapy, combining special antibodies with radioactive substances to destroy cancer cells; and interferon therapy, using genetically engineered proteins to arrest the cancer's growth.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 85 percent of people in the first two stages of Hodgkin’s lymphoma live for five years after diagnosis, as long as proper treatment is provided. According to Lymphoma.org, the five-year survival rate for those with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 63 percent, and 30 to 60 percent of those with aggressive forms of the disease can be cured. However, life expectancy for both types of the disease depends on many different factors, including the overall health of the patient, treatments used and the stage of the disease.