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What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma and leukemia are often confused: the words sound similar and they are both cancerous conditions.  Leukemias are cancers that affect the tissues that generate blood cells; lymphomas are cancers that arise in the lymphatic system or lymph nodes.   The two major types of lymphomas are Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Hodgkin's disease is four times more common in women than in men and nearly 7,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  Patients with Hodgkin's disease appear to get this condition before age 60 and probably have a genetic predisposition, although environmental causes are still being investigated.  The definitive diagnosis is based upon a minor surgical procedure called a lymph node biopsy.

Symptoms are usually vague and depend on the extent of the disease and the location of the lymph nodes involved.  The good news is that chemotherapy or radiation therapy can cure most patients who are diagnosed relatively early.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is about 10 times more common than Hodgkin's disease and it's risk increases directly with age. While its cause is also unknown, new evidence suggests a viral association as with some leukemias.    Patients with HIV/AIDS are also at much great risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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Created: 4/19/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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