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World Lymphoma Awareness Day

Today is ‘World Lymphoma Day’ and many, like me, may have no idea what lymphoma is and it was only when my sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma over 30 years ago, aged only 17, I learned more about it. 

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system and there are two main types, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system, which helps to protect from infection and disease.  It also drains fluid from the body’s tissues back into the blood.  The lymphatic system includes lymph vessels and lymph nodes (also known as lymph glands).  Lymph travels through the vessels and nodes before returning to the blood stream.  The nodes filter out disease, bacteria and viruses.  When fighting infection, the nodes can swell and it is these you can probably feel, if for example, you have a throat infection. 

Symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma tends to be fairly non-specific and may include: - 

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, under arms or groin.
  • Intermittent fevers
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Generalised itching
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • A feeling of fullness
  • Coughing, shortness of breath, chest discomfort. 

My sister went to her GP when a number of lumps developed in her neck area.  She was referred to hospital, where she had blood tests and a lymph node biopsy, following which Hodgkin lymphoma was quickly diagnosed.  She was treated with 9 months of chemotherapy before being given the ‘all clear’ and has remained Hodgkin free now for nearly 3 decades. 

If you do have any concerns it is always worth getting checked out by your GP who, where necessary, can refer you for specialist advice or, in most cases, provide reassurance.

Sara Westwood

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