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Childhood Cancers: Lymphoma


Lymphoma is divided into Hodgkin's disease (or Hodgkin's lymphoma ) and non-Hodgkin's disease .

Non-Hodgkin's disease , is really a group of related cancers involving the lymphatic system . There are three major types of childhood non-Hodgkin's lymphomas: lymphoblastic lymphoma , small noncleaved cell lymphoma (either Burkitt's lymphoma or non-Burkitt's lymphoma ), and large cell lymphoma . The type is determined mainly by what the cancer cells look like under a microscope. The way the cells look under a microscope is called the "histology" of the cancer. If a child had lymphoma, it is generally of this type.

Hodgkin's disease , or Hodgkin's lymphoma, is a less severe lymphoma. Although the symptoms are similar to those of other lymphomas, the histology of the cancer cells in Hodgkin's disease are different. Hodgkin's disease is easier to treat than other types of lymphomas and is rare in children under 5 years of age.

Symptoms and signs

The most common symptom of lymphoma is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin. Other symptoms include fevers, night sweats, tiredness, weight loss, itching, and reddened patches on the skin. Sometimes there is nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain. Lymphoma risk increases with decreasing immune function, such as that caused by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or exposure to certain infectious agents. Organ transplant recipients are also at higher risk because they take drugs that weaken the immune system as part of the transplantation process.

Diagnosis And Treatment

The doctor will examine the child for swelling or lumps in the neck, underarms, groin, and abdomen. A chest x-ray will usually be done to check for swellings in the chest. If the lymph nodes don't feel normal, or a lump is found in the chest or abdomen, your child's doctor may need to perform a biopsy and look at it under the microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. Prognosis and treatment will depend on the type of lymphoma, the child's age and overall condition and the stage of the cancer. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can be cured. Treatment usually consists of chemotherapy, radiation therapy in special situations and bone marrow transplantation is being tested in clinical trials for certain patients.

Lymphatic System

The lymph system is made up of thin tubes that branch, like blood vessels, into all parts of the body. Lymph vessels carry lymph, a colourless, watery fluid that contains white blood cells called lymphocytes (B cells and T cells). Along the network of vessels are groups of small, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarm, pelvis, neck, chest, and abdomen. The lymph nodes make and store infection-fighting cells. The spleen (an organ in the upper abdomen that makes lymphocytes and filters old blood cells from the blood), the thymus (a small organ beneath the breastbone), and the tonsils (an organ in the throat) are also part of the lymph system.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):

1. Pediatric Cancers, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center:
2. Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopaedia, ©1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 2000:

Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt

Hodgkins Disease
non Hodgkin's disease


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Contact Last modified: Oct 20 2004