Lymphomas are cancers that develop when malignant cells infiltrate the lymphatic system. Childhood Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) develops in the lymph system, which is an integral part of the body’s immune system.
Lymphomas are divided into two basic types:
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
NHL is the more common lymphoma in children; it is uncommon in children under the age of 10, but when it does, it is more common in boys than in girls.
There are four major types of childhood Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The specific type of lymphoma is determined by how the cells look under a microscope.
Causes of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
The exact cause of NHL, as with most childhood cancers, is not known. Research in to the causes is ongoing.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the typical signs and symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Night sweats
- Painless lump or swelling
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin
- Trouble breathing or wheezing
- Unexplained high temperature/fever
- Unexplained weight loss
Tests and Diagnosis
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma can be diagnosed or staged using the following tests and procedures:
- Physical Exam and History: The doctor will perform an physical examination, checking your child’s general health as well as checking for anything unusual or signs of cancer, and a complete medical history will be taken
- A Biopsy: Doctors perform a small operation done under general anaesthetic whereby cells and tissues are removed and studied under a microscope by a pathologist; various laboratory tests are also done
Other tests that may be done include x-rays, a complete blood count, blood chemistry studies, ultrasound scans, MRI scan, CT scan, or a bone marrow aspiration.
The exact treatment option for childhood NHL depends on the type and staging of the cancer.
- Chemotherapy: Most times NHL is treated with a combination of Chemotherapy drugs. These anti-cancer drugs destroy or shrink cancer cells. B-cell NHL is generally treated with about 4-8 courses of intensive chemotherapy and T-cell NHL is treatment lasts about two years.
- Radiotherapy: In very rare cases radiotherapy is also used. In radiotherapy, high-energy rays are used to destroy cancer cells.
Awareness Ribbon Colour
The awareness ribbon colour for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is Lime Green
Academic Editing by Dr Marc Hendricks MBChB (UCT), DIP PEC (SA), DCH (SA), FCPaeds (SA), CMO Paeds (SA) Senior Specialist, Paediatric Oncologist Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
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