By Shweta Sharma, New Delhi, April 27 IANS | 3 months ago

Fever, breathlessness and lack of energy could be much more than just fatigue, warn health experts. Such symptoms are synonymous with lymphoma or a type of blood cancer, which is one of the fastest-growing cancers in the world. However, experts said the cure rate is high if detected early.


Lymphoma is the uncontrolled multiplication of lymphocytes (white blood cells) and begins in the body's immune system. It may develop in the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood or other organs, eventually forming a tumour.

"Painless swelling of lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss and lack of energy are some symptoms associated with the disease," Vaneet Gupta, senior consultant, clinical oncology, PSRI Hospital, told IANS.

"Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer, and accounts for three to four percent of all cancers," Gupta added.

"Intestinal lymphoma is particularly common in India," Gupta said.

Vineet Talwar, senior consultant oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, said that the disease mimics general symptoms and advised a thorough checkup if the symptoms prevail for a few weeks.

"The mind should develop a high level of suspicion if the symptoms continue after the patient has been given a standard treatment and a dose of antibiotics," Talwar told IANS.

Shishir Seth, senior consultant, hemato-oncology and bone marrow transplant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, explained that there are two types of lymphoma - Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin.

He said it is the fourth most common cancer, with the risk of developing it being 20 to 22 per 100,000 people.

"Non-Hodgkin lymphoma may be of indolent, aggressive or very aggressive behavior," Seth said.

He added that sometimes lymphoma is clinically suspected and treated as tuberculosis because of gland swelling and fever.

Despite such figures, health experts stated that depending on the type of cancer, lymphoma has a very high "cure rate" and if treated on time.

"It has 90-95 percent success rate. But treatment depends on which lymphoma does the patient suffer from and what is the stage," S.M. Barodawala, doctor-in-charge, histopathology, at medical service provider Metropolis Healthcare Limited, told IANS.

Agreeing with this view, Talwar said that the cure rate is as high as 95 percent in the first two stages of the disease.

"In the later two stages, three and four, the success rate is somewhere between 60 to 70 percent," he added.

According to experts, such high cure rate is because lymphoma is a "chemo-sensitive" disease.

"Early diagnosis and proper treatment is the mantra for this high cure rate," Seth said.

The disease is not age- and gender-specific, but children and those in the advanced age-group are more vulnerable.

Though the causes of lymphoma are not clearly known, they are believed to have various genetic links and are also caused by chemical carcinogens/drugs and viral infections.

"Long-term radiation could give rise to lymphoma, but it has also been implicated in other types of cancers, like post-Hiroshima/Nagasaki and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster," said Barodawala.

Background of these disasters

"In short, it is an interplay of a multitude of factors like genetic mutation, effect of viral and chemical carcinogens, radiation hazards and the individuals' immune response which play an important role," he added.

On the treatment aspect, experts recommended that lymphoma patients maintain personal hygiene, avoid exposure to environment and eat fresh food.

"When you initially start treatment, the meals should be low in potassium as the lymphoma cells, on bursting, release potassium. Later, they should take healthy food comprising exceptionally clean fruits and green vegetables," Talwar suggested.

According to Anurag Mehta, director, lab and blood bank services, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre: "The Indian medical fraternity has been aware of this disease. But a large amount of new information regarding development of lymphomas and new advancements in its treatment has emerged in recent years.

"As this type of cancer is less common, the general public is not very aware of this type of cancer," he said, adding that awareness needs to be created so that medical treatment could be administered on time.

(Shweta Sharma can be contacted at shweta.s@ians.in)

(Posted on 27-04-2014)