Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the cells that fight the immune system. These white blood cells are called lymphocytes – hence the name lymphoma. These cells are found in the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes as well as other body parts. When a person gets lymphoma, their lymphocytes changes and grows out of control.
This kind of cancer can affect people regardless of their age. However, it most commonly affects kids and young adults aged between 15 and 24 years. The good thing is that lymphoma is treatable.
This section will cover the various problems, symptoms, and treatments for lymphoma in children. It is intended to educate parents who see a lot of those symptoms in their children.
Types of Lymphoma
There are 2 major kinds of lymphoma in kids, which depends on the type of cell that makes up cancer. Generally, they are grouped as either non-Hodgkin’s (NHL) or Hodgkin’s.
Among the two sub-groups, NHL is the most common lymphoma in kids. More often, it affects kids aged between 10 and 20.
Alternatively, Hodgkin’s is not common in kids below 5 years. But it is more frequent in boy children than in girls.
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas (NHL) – There are 3 kinds of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.
- Lymphoblastic: this predominantly originates from the T-cell. At times it is challenging to differentiate it from leukemia. Lymphoblastic affects around 30 percent of childhood NHLs.
- Small non-cleaved cell lymphoma: this is B-cell origin. It accounts for around 40-50 percent of childhood Non-Hodgkin’s.
- Large cell lymphoma: this is a heterogeneous type T-cell and B-cell lineage. It affects about 20-25 percent of childhood NHLs
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Hodgkin’s illness is grouped based on the presence of the bi-nucleated and large cells known as Reed-Sternberg cells (R-S). Subgroups of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are known depending on the quantity of R-S cells alongside other factors.
Symptoms Of The 2 Kinds Of Lymphoma
The symptoms and signs of lymphoma in kids are the same as those of diseases like the common cold and viral illnesses. The only difference is that these ones for lymphoma continue for long.
While the symptoms are different from one kid to the other, most of them notice some swelling of their lymph nodes. These are situated around different body parts such as the armpits, groin, neck, and abdomen.
Though the swelling is usually painless, it might be painful when the enlarged glands exert pressure on bones, organs or other structures. Some parents or caregivers confuse this pain with back pain.
If a child has a cold, their lymph nodes can indeed swell. How you differentiate it is by the simple fact that the swelling caused by lymphoma stays for long.
Apart from the swelling of lymph nodes, other symptoms of lymphoma include:
- Abdominal swelling or pain
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Uncommon itching
- Loss of appetite; hence weight loss
- Night chills, fever, and sweats
- Continuous fever with no infection
- Lack of energy, uncommon tiredness or persistent fatigue
- Shortness of breath
Many of these signs and symptoms can as well be warnings for other illnesses. Therefore, before you start on any kind of treatment you should see a doctor to check out whether your child has lymphoma.
Lymphoma can rapidly spread from your kid’s lymph nodes to other body parts via the lymphatic system. When these cancerous lymphocytes move to other body tissues, the ability of your body to fight infection becomes weak.
When these grown abnormal cells are not controlled cancer takes place. Mostly, lymphoma moves to the lungs, bone marrow and liver.
On one hand, the Hodgkin cancer normally affects a single lymph node first and then moves to the other. On the other hand, the Non-Hodgkin cancer leads to tumors on the lymph nodes. Unlike Hodgkin, the no-Hodgkin may skip some nodes.
While the causes of lymphoma are not clear yet, there are certain risk factors such as.
- Location and ethnicity: White Americans are at higher risk of NHL than Asian-Americans, African-Americans and the United States. More so, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is less common in underdeveloped nations.
- Radiation and chemicals: Both nuclear radiations as well as a few chemicals people use in agriculture have a connection to NHL.
- Age and sex: As touched earlier, lymphoma is less frequent in girls than in boys. Moreover, NHL is more common in kids under 5 years of age.
- Infection: Some bacterial and viral infections that change lymphocytes also increase the risk of lymphoma.
- Diet and body weight: Though more study is required to confirm the connection, obesity may have a connection to lymphoma.
Treatment for Lymphomas
Treatment is based on the kind of lymphoma: either non-Hodgkin or Hodgkin’s. It further depends on its stage.
For slow-growing or indolent lymphoma, it might require you to only watch your kid attentively. Alternatively, if lymphoma in your kid requires treatment, it can entail:
- Antibody therapy – This involves the insertion of synthetic antibodies into your kid’s bloodstream. This helps in combating cancer’s antigens.
- Biologic therapy – As aforementioned, lymphoma is a kind of cancer that affects the immune fighting cells. Biologic therapy is a drug that stimulates a kid’s immune system. Here living micro-organisms are inserted into the body to help the immune system fight those cancer cells.
- Radio-immunotherapy – This treatment provides very powerful radioactive doses right into both the cancerous T-cells and B-cells; hence destroying them.
- Chemotherapy – This is an aggressive drug treatment that kills cancer-causing cells.
- Surgery – More often than not, surgery aims at obtaining a biopsy. It is done to eradicate the spleen or any other organs if the lymphoma in a kid has spread.
- Stem-cell transplantation – Under high-dose of radiation therapy or chemotherapy, stem-cell transplantation can certainly restore a kid’s damaged bone marrow.
- Radiation therapy – This treatment focuses on tiny areas of cancer.
- Steroids – These are injections for treating lymphoma.
With proper treatment, 2 out of 3 kids diagnosed with stage-one NHL will survive for about five years. As for those diagnosed with stage-1 Hodgkin lymphoma, more than 85% of children will survive for around five years as well.
Nonetheless, if you note either of these symptoms you should seek medical attention immediately. In doing so, you will increase the chances of successful treatment of lymphoma.