Lymphoma is a cancer which originates in the cells, the lymph nodes and other tissues of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of fine vessels, glands and channels which occur throughout the body. It also conveys nutrients and cells, and is responsible for draining fluid and waste products away from tissues, and into the blood stream to be processed.
The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system which helps us fight infection. The lymphatic system is made up of organs such as the bone marrow, thymus, spleen and the lymph nodes (or lymph glands). Within the lymphatic system is a liquid called the Lymph fluid, this fluid contains cells called lymphocytes. These are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection and disease. Lymphocytes start to grow in the bone marrow, which is where all blood cells are made. There are two main types of lymphocytes called B-cells and T-cells.
B-cells mature in the bone marrow while T-cells mature in the thymus gland behind the breast bone. When they're mature, both B-cells and T-cells help fight infections. Lymphoma is a disease in which either T-cells or B-cells grow in an uncontrolled way. There are many lymph nodes (glands) which are found in the neck, armpits, groin, the abdomen, chest and pelvis. There are other masses of lymphoid tissues such as the tonsils and in the lining of the gut.
Lymphoma happens when some of the lymphocytes divide in an abnormal way, or do not die as they should. They can collect in the lymph nodes which enlarge as tumours form. Lymphoma is not necessarily restricted to one part of the body. It can also involve other organs and affect the function of the tissue involved. Whilst it is a disease of the lymphatic system, it can also happen in other areas of the body. There are two main forms of lymphoma; Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Reviewed April 2013