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Lymphoma Overview

Lymphoma is a type of cancer involving cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. Just as cancer represents many different diseases, lymphoma represents many different cancers of lymphocytes-about 35 different subtypes, in fact.

Lymphoma is a group of cancers that affect the cells that play a role in the immune system, and primarily represents cells involved in the lymphatic system of the body.

Lymphoma Symptoms

Often, the first sign of lymphoma is a painless swelling in the neck, under an arm, or in the groin.

  • Lymph nodes or tissues elsewhere in the body may also swell. The spleen, for example, often becomes enlarged in lymphoma.
  • The enlarged lymph node sometimes causes other symptoms by pressing against a vein or lymphatic vessel (swelling of an arm or leg), a nerve (pain, numbness, or tingling), or the stomach (early feeling of fullness).
  • Enlargement of the spleen may cause abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Many people have no other symptoms.

Symptoms of lymphoma may include the following:

  • Fevers
  • Chills
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Lack of energy
  • Itching

These Symptoms Are Nonspecific :

What Causes Lymphoma?

Cancer is ultimately the result of cells that uncontrollably grow and do not die. Normal cells in the body follow an orderly path of growth, division, and death. Programmed cell death is called apoptosis, and when this process breaks down, cancer results. Scientists do not know exactly what causes lymphoma, but they have identified several potential risk factors.

How Is Lymphoma Diagnosed And Staged?

In order to diagnose lymphoma, physicians will request a complete physical exam as well as personal and family medical histories. An oncologist (cancer specialist) will usually be consulted to review the results of several tests.

Blood tests will be used to test blood cell, kidney, and liver performance. They can also detect a chemical called lactase hydrogenase (LDH), of which high levels have been associated with an aggressive form of NHL.

Several imaging techniques are employed in order to see if cancer exists and to find out how far they have spread.

Common Imaging Tests Include:

  • X-rays
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Lymphangiogram
  • Gallium scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans

Physicians may also perform bone marrow examinations to see if the lymphoma has infected the bone marrow. Bone marrow samples are often taken from the hip and examined for the presence of abnormal B or T cells.

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How Is Lymphoma Treated?

Cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer (how much it has spread), age, health status, whether or not one has received previous cancer treatment, and additional personal characteristics. Lymphoma treatment is usually designed to result in complete remission of the disease - a state where there may be lymphoma cells in the body, but they are undetectable and cause no symptoms. Common lymphoma treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biological therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is considered a local therapy, meaning that it should be used to target areas of the body involved by tumor masses. A radiation oncologist will plan and supervise therapy.


Chemotherapy is the use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy, meaning that it circulates through the bloodstream and affects all parts of the body. Ideally, chemotherapy can find and kill cancer cells anywhere in the body.

Biological therapy

Biological therapies are sometimes referred to as immunotherapy because they take advantage of the body's natural immunity against pathogens. These therapies are attractive because they offer anticancer effects without many of the undesirable side effects of standard therapies. There are many different types of biological therapies

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