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What is Lymphoma?

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Updated April 09, 2014

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system.

What is cancer?:

A cancer is a condition when some of the body's own cells start behaving abnormally. Our body is made of different types of cells in different organs eg. nerves or blood. Sometimes a normal cell stops listening to the signals that ask it to stop growing. The cell continues to grow and multiply. This is a cancer cell. As the cancer grows, the organ cannot work normally. Some of these cells also break off from their original site and spread to other parts of the body and affect other organs.

What is the lymph system?:

The lymph system is an interconnected network of thin tubes and nodes that carries white blood cells. These cells fight infections and are vitally important for our well-being. You can read more about the lymph system in the article - What is the lymph system?. So when a lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) that is a part of the lymph system becomes cancerous, it may grow and multiply to form a lymphoma.

Which part of my body is affected?:

Lymphoma may affect any of the parts of the lymph system. Most commonly, patients first notice an enlargement of lymph nodes - usually in the neck, groin or armpits. But lymphomas can occur in other organs as well. This is because small amounts of lymph and lymph tissue pass through practically all organs in the body in order that white blood cells can reach them to control infections.

One disease or many?:

Lymphoma is not a single cancer but a group of many related cancers. In fact, there are nearly 30 different types of lymphoma. Broadly, they are grouped under two categories: Hodgkin Disease and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. These two broad groups may be similar in their symptoms and the tests that are required, but they behave differently when they affect a person.

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