“Blood cancer” may sound cut and dry, but there is a wide variation in types of cancers of the blood. Lymphoma, the most common blood cancer, is a type of cancer that grows in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. However, even the term “lymphoma” is a blanket term. There are two major classifications of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is characterized by the presence of a specific type of abnormal cell, called a Reed-Sternberg cell. Lymphomas that do not present with this particular abnormality are Non-Hodgkins. If that’s not enough to make your head spin, these lymphomas may affect B-lymphocytes or T-lymphocytes. The job of both of these lymphocytes are to fight infection, and the B-lymphocytes dig deeper into invading viruses or bacteria.
Mantle cell lymphoma is a B-lymphocyte, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Its name comes from the fact that the cancerous cells typically originate in the “mantle zone” for the bone marrow. It accounts for approximately two to seven percent of all Non-Hodgkin’s cases in the United States. It is most common in men over the age of 50. While many medical scientists classify Mantle Cell Lymphoma as an indolent, or slow-acting, cancer, it has often spread far and into many areas before a diagnosis is made. It is common for Mantle Cell Lymphoma to spread to several lymph nodes and the spleen, but sometimes spreads as far as the gastrointestinal tract before a diagnosis is made.
As with any cancer, the form of treatment depends on many factors. The stage of the disease, the age of the patient, and the overall health of the patient are just some elements that factor into how the medical team may choose to treat Mantle Cell Lymphoma in a particular patient. With many lymphomas, it is often appropriate to wait and closely monitor the progression. While this may be appropriate for Mantle Cell Lymphoma in some cases, medical teams often decide to begin treatment quickly due to the tendency for late-stage diagnosis.