What Is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a haematological malignancy that affects the blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes form part of the body’s immune system cells called white blood cells. Lymphoma affects the lymphatic system of the body which consists of lymph nodes and other organs such as the spleen, liver and bone marrow.
There are two different types of lymphoma namely non-Hodgkins and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Hodgkin's lymphoma is classified based on the presence of Reed- Sternberg cells when histology is assessed. Hodgkin's lymphoma is common between the ages of 15 and 40 years, and treatment is curative in 75 % of cases.
All non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are classified as such when there are no Reed-Sternberg cells present on histology. B-cell lymphoma, Natural Killer cell and T-cell lymphoma, precursor lymphomas and immunodeficiency associated lymphomas include some of the subtypes of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Diagnosis of lymphoma is made on histological basis after tissue sampling (biopsy) of lymph nodes is done. Other tests can be done to establish the type and severity (staging) of lymphoma. These include Positive Emission Tomography (PET) scans and Computerised Tomography (CT) scans.
Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery or stem cell transplant. Treatment is chosen based on the type of lymphoma and the disease staging. Most lymphomas, even if aggressive have a good prognosis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lymphoma?
Lymphadenopathy is the commonest presenting factor of lymphoma. Lymphadenopathy presents with swollen and enlarged lymph nodes, often painless. Usually, cervical lymphadenopathy is the first presenting symptoms.
The spleen and liver may be enlarged, called splenomegaly and hepatomegaly (5% of cases).
Constitutional symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Pruritis (generalised itching of the body)
Non-specific symptoms that are indicative of cancer:
- Unintentional weight loss (more than ten percent loss in six month’s time)
- Malaise and fatigue
Enlarged lymph nodes/ lymphadenopathy may also cause symptoms due to pressure or obstructive mass effects:
- Oedema (swelling) in legs
- Difficulty or pain on swallowing
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
What Are The Causes Of Lymphoma?
- Genetics has shown to play a role.
- Environmental factors also play a role and may predispose to disease. These factors include:
- Radiation exposure
- Previous chemotherapy
- Viral infections such as Epstein Bar Virus (causes Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 50% of lymphoma cases)and Herpes Simplex Virus
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, HIV
- Medications: Past history of phenytoin use may increase the risk of developing lymphoma
- Auto-immune disorders such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Rheumatoid Arthritis
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Lymphoma?
- Make sure your body is well hydrated. Drink at least two litres of clean, purified water per day to assist your body to eliminate toxins and function optimally
- Mild exercise may be indicated depending on the disease stage and treatment side-effects. Gentle cardiovascular exercise through walking for 30mins three times per week may be beneficial.
- Other options include yoga or stretching classes.Discuss exercise with your attending doctor.
- Stress reduction, relaxation and mindfulness
- Sleep quantity and quality is important. Make sure you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per day.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Lymphoma?
If persistent or progressive swollen lymph nodes are present, do not delay seeking medical assistance for a diagnosis.
What Are The Best Foods For Lymphoma?
Proper diet and nutrition are important in cancer, to support the body’s immune system. There are different suggested protocols that have been implicated in assisting with cancer remission such as the Budwig and Gerson diets.
The majority of protocols include organic foods, juicing, and creating an “alkaline” environment in the body through consuming foods that are high in alkaline content.
Foods that have anti-neoplastic effects include:
- Raw, fresh vegetables especially green leafy vegetables that are more alkaline
- Probiotic rich foods such as kefir and yoghurt. Goats milk is preferred over cow’s milk
- Flaxseeds and chia seeds
- Foods high in antioxidants such as berries, strawberries, blueberries
- Vitamin C rich foods such as bell peppers, citrus fruits, papaya
If you have significant weight loss associated with cancer therapy, your doctor may suggest a medicinal food to supplement calorie intake
What Are The Worst Foods For Lymphoma?
- Processed foods and refined carbohydrates
- Saturated fats increase inflammation, decreases the body’s ability to fight infections and abnormal cell development (as implicated in cancer)
- Alcohol and caffeine increases the toxic load on the liver and kidneys
- Avoid raw dairy, red meat, poultry, fish and eggs as it may predispose to developing foodborne illnesses, especially in your immunocompromised state
What Are The Medicines For Lymphoma?
What Are The Tips To Manage Lymphoma?
- Frankincense essential oil is potentially cancer-fighting. It can be applied topically or ingested in diluted form
- Turmeric powder and curcumin have also been shown to fight cancer
- It is important to discuss any complementary treatment or supplements with your doctor before taking them as they may interact with other therapies.