Lymphoma is a common form of blood cancer, in which lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, grow out of control. The cancerous lymphocytes may then travel to different areas in the body, such as the lymph nodes, the spleen, or other organs, ultimately forming tumors. Lymphoma is commonly divided into two categories, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This difference is contingent on the specific types of lymphocytes affected. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma creates a specific type of abnormal cell, known as a Reed-Sternberg cell, which is not present in Non-Hodgkin’s. To make a lymphoma diagnosis even more confusing, certain forms of lymphoma affect B-lymphocytes while others affect T-lymphocytes. At the most basic level, the difference between these blood cells is that B-lymphocytes can fight invading viruses or bacteria at a deeper level than T-lymphocytes.
Follicular Lymphoma is a Non-Hodgkin’s, B-lymphocyte lymphoma. It is the most commonly occurring slow-progressing form, accounting for approximately 20-30% percent of all Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas (NHLs). Though many of us associate the word “follicle” with “hair,” the “Follicular” element of the name comes from the cluster pattern in which the cancerous cells grow and has nothing to do with hair follicles.
Common signs of Follicular Lymphoma may include enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, stomach, or groin, as well as shortness of breath, fatigue, night sweats, unaccountable weight loss, consistent itchiness with no discernable cause, and/or reduced resistance to infection. If the follicular lymphoma occurs in the bone marrow, it may also lead to anemia and/or increased likelihood of bruising or bleeding. Many patients, however, have no symptoms at the time of diagnosis. Follicular Lymphoma generally responds very well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, though your medical team will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for your particular case.
Follicular lymphoma itself is not a particularly painful form of cancer, but treatments may make a patient feel physically ill. Additionally, the diagnosis of any form of cancer is often accompanied by emotional and psychological hardships. Your medical team will work with you to ensure that physical discomfort is kept to a minimum and may assist you in finding psychological therapy or support groups to help deal with emotional pressure.
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