What symptoms suggest lymph node cancer? – FITBOOK

Everyone knows the swollen, painful lymph nodes in the stages of the disease. However, if the lymph nodes swell painlessly, it may be a sign of lymph node cancer. A malignant disease that causes non-specific symptoms.

The lymphatic system is part of the body’s defense system and is responsible for fighting infections. It is made up of a series of lymph nodes and blood vessels that carry lymph fluid, which contains white blood cells that fight infection, throughout the body. Foreign bodies and other harmful substances are filtered and destroyed by the lymphatic system. Lymph node cancer is a general term for cancer of the lymphatic system. FITBOOK knows the symptoms of lymph node cancer.

What are the symptoms of lymph node cancer?

In the early stages, lymph node cancer causes almost no symptoms. Only swollen lymph nodes can be a symptom of the disease. They can appear in the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, abdomen, groin, upper chest and even behind the sternum. In addition, the symptoms of early lymphoma are very non-specific:1

  • fatigue and exhaustion
  • strong feeling of cold
  • chills
  • Fever
  • stuffiness
  • itch
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal pain
  • painless, persistent swelling of the lymph nodes

So-called B symptoms may also occur:

  • Fever
  • night sweats
  • weight loss

Other symptoms, such as anemia, a tendency to infection and bleeding, may occur in the later advanced course, when the bone marrow is also affected. Symptoms such as cough, difficulty breathing, abdominal, bone and joint pain, and indigestion may also occur, depending on organ and tissue infections.

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Types of lymph node cancer

There are different types of lymphomas that differ in the types of cells involved and the course of the disease. There are two main types Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease) and that Non-Hodghin lymphoma (NHL).

Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease)

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a malignant lymphoma that comes from degenerate lymph cells, more specifically from B cells. B lymphocytes belong to white blood cells and, together with T cells, are an important part of the human immune system. Defense cells produce antibodies against pathogens, bacteria and viruses. The difference between Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can only be seen under a microscope. In the first case, so-called “Reed-Sternberg cells” can be detected, multinucleated giant tumor cells that do not occur in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

If no “Reed-Sternberg cells” are found, a large number of different types of cancer of the lymphatic system are summarized under “Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” (NHL). Here, too, lymphomas are caused by degenerate B cells and, in a smaller number, by T cells that are responsible for fighting the virus. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are divided into low-grade and high-grade, ie high-grade NHL. In the latter, fast-growing, degenerate cells, they spread from their place of origin – often from one of the lymph nodes – all over the body and infect other organs and tissues.2,3,4

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What are the causes of the disease?

Cancer develops when lymphatic cells, such as the spleen or bone marrow stem cells, grow out of control. However, the exact trigger behind this is not yet known. Science has only been able to identify a combination of factors that may increase the risk of developing lymph node cancer. In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they are:

In the case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the following risk factors may also be the cause:

  • some autoimmune diseases, such as B. Rheumatism
  • hepatitis B and C infections
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • chemicals such as some pesticides
  • radioactive radiation
  • seniority
  • severe overweight

How do you diagnose?

If your doctor finds an abnormal swelling or other symptom, he or she will order a biopsy of the suspected lymphoma if he or she suspects lymph node cancer. The cells are removed from the enlarged lymph nodes and sent to a specialist called a hematopathologist, who examines the cells to determine if they are lymphoma and, if so, what type of cell it is.

If these are indeed lymphoma cells, further tests are needed to find out how far the cancer has progressed, ie at what stage. This is done by means of X-rays, the number of white and red blood cells by means of blood tests, examination of the cells and tissues of the lymph nodes, bone marrow and ultrasound examinations.5,6,7

Lymphoma classification

The stages of lymph node cancer were divided into four stages:

  • Phase 1: Affected single area of ​​the lymph nodes or localized area outside the lymphatic system
  • Stage 2: Affected by two or more areas of the lymph nodes on the same side of the diaphragm
  • Stage 3: Affected by two or more areas of the lymph nodes on either side of the diaphragm or organs outside the lymphatic system
  • Stage 4: Non-localized involvement of one or more non-lymphatic organs, such as the lungs, liver or bone marrow, with or without lymph node involvement

Doctors also rank NHL tumors according to how fast they grow. Low-grade lymphomas are slow-growing and less malignant. Highly malignant lymphomas are malignant, aggressive and grow very fast.8

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What treatment options are there?

In the treatment of lymph node cancer, several specialists for treatment or treatment are usually consulted in the hematology and oncology department of the university clinic. Depending on the type and progression of lymphoma, an individual treatment plan is drawn up, which also takes into account age and general health.

Therapeutic approaches are diverse and in many cases promising. Treatments that can be used for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:

  • Radiation therapy to shrink and kill cancer cells
  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • antibody therapy
  • in some cases stem cell transplants

Often, one therapeutic approach is or must be combined with another for treatment to be effective. Stem cell transplantation can only work with chemotherapy.

Frequency and prognosis of the disease

Cancer is relatively rare in Germany. Hodgkin’s lymphoma accounts for only about 0.5 percent of all new cancers in Germany in men and women. Men became ill on average at the age of 46 and women at the age of 43. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are also relatively rare. In 2018, 8,280 women and 10,190 men had lymph node cancer in Germany. In comparison, about 70,000 women developed breast cancer and about 34,000 men developed colorectal cancer in the same year.9.10

The extent to which lymph node cancer can be cured depends, in principle, on the type and stage of the disease. The age and health status of the patient also play a role in the treatment. Many people with Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be cured. Five-year survival is about 91 percent for women and 81 percent for men. Unfortunately, the chances of recovery from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are slightly worse because some types of NHL are very aggressive and growing rapidly. About 71 percent of women and 70 percent of men survive the next five years after diagnosis.11,12,13,14

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Can lymphoma be prevented?

Because it is not entirely clear what exactly causes lymph node cancer, it is not possible to say with certainty how best to minimize the risk of developing the disease. In principle, every form of preventive medical examination should be used and a doctor should be consulted if any abnormalities and symptoms appear in the lymph nodes that could indicate lymph node cancer. In addition, one should lead a generally healthy lifestyle in order to minimize any form of disease risk. This means following a healthy diet, drinking little or no alcohol, getting enough exercise and not smoking.

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