Commemorate together

11 September 2019 | Health

World Lymphoma Awareness Day is commemorated on 15 September every year and is dedicated to raising awareness of lymphoma, an increasingly common form of cancer. It is a global initiative hosted by the Lymphoma Coalition, a non-profit network organisation of 63 lymphoma patient groups from 44 countries around the world, of which the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) is a member through the Campaigning 4 Cancer coalition.
Currently, around one million people worldwide live with lymphoma and nearly 1 000 people are diagnosed with the disease every day. In spite of this, there continues to be very little awareness of the signs and symptoms of lymphoma.

What it is
Lymphoma is cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow and other parts of the body. When you have lymphoma, lymphocytes change and grow out of control.
There are two main types of lymphoma, namely Non-Hodgkin – which most people with lymphoma have – and Hodgkin. Both these lymphomas involve different types of lymphocyte cells. Every type of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment.

Lymphoma is very treatable and the outlook can vary depending on the type of lymphoma and its stage. Lymphoma is different from leukaemia in that lymphoma starts in infection-fighting lymphocytes, while leukaemia starts in blood-forming cells inside bone marrow. Also note that lymphoma is not the same as lymphedema, which is a collection of fluid that forms in body tissues when there is damage or blockage to the lymph system.
Increasing awareness of lymphoma will allow people around the world to better recognise its signs and symptoms, leading to earlier diagnosis and more timely treatment. Greater awareness will also empower patients and their families to demand specialist treatment and care from qualified lymphoma physicians as well as gain access to the most up-to-date information, support and treatment.

Scientists don’t know what causes lymphoma in most cases. However, you may be more at risk if you:
• Are in your 60s or older for non-Hodgkin lymphoma
• Are between 15 and 40 or older than 55 for Hodgkin lymphoma
• Are male, although certain subtypes may be more common in females
• Have a weak immune system from HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant, or because you were born with an immune disease
• Have an immune system disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome, lupus, or celiac disease
• Have been infected with a virus such as Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, or human T-cell leukaemia / lymphoma (HTLV-1)
• Have a close relative who had lymphoma
• Were exposed to benzene or chemicals that kill bugs and weeds
• Were treated for Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the past
• Were treated for cancer with radiation

Warning signs of lymphoma include swollen glands (lymph nodes), often in the neck, armpit, or groin that are painless • Cough • Shortness of breath • Fever • Night sweats • Fatigue • Weight loss • Itching.
Many of these symptoms can also be warning signs of other illnesses. See your doctor to find out what may be wrong.