At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Lymphoma is a cancer that arises in white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are many different kinds of lymphoma that are classified based on the type of lymphocytes they affect. Large cell lymphoma, which originates in T and B cells, is one of the most common forms of the disorder. Most cases of large cell lymphoma create tumors in lymph tissue and quickly spread to other parts of the body, including bones, lungs, and the central nervous system. A patient who is diagnosed with the condition usually receives chemotherapy or radiation treatments in an attempt to prevent the cancer from spreading.
The exact causes of large cell lymphoma are unclear, but medical researchers believe that most cases result from conditions that weaken the immune system, such as retroviruses, immunosuppressive drugs, and simply getting older. In fact, most people who are diagnosed with large cell lymphoma are over the age of 60. Doctors also believe that genetic disorders and environmental toxins can influence the development of the cancer.
There are several subtypes of large cell lymphoma that are distinguished based on their presentation, though they all cause similar symptoms and progress in approximately the same manner. In the initial stage of lymphoma, cancerous cells are isolated within a single lymph node or area of lymphatic tissue. Within months, the cancer can spread to multiple lymph nodes and eventually to other types of body tissue.
A person with lymphoma may experience a number of different symptoms. He or she might notice lymph node swelling in the neck, abdomen, groin or underarm, as well as a sore throat, itchy skin, and joint pain. As the cancer spreads, it is possible to suffer from fevers, chronic fatigue, and frequent infections. Some forms of large cell lymphoma spread to the skin, causing multiple open lesions. An individual who experiences any possible symptoms of lymphoma should visit his or her doctor immediately to receive a proper diagnosis.
A physician who suspects lymphoma can perform a physical evaluation and collect blood and urine samples for laboratory analysis. Lab tests can reveal the presence of abnormal cells and unusual levels of healthy lymphocytes. X-rays or computerized tomography scans may be taken to check for internal tumors. After diagnosing large cell lymphoma and determining the severity of the condition, a team of specialists can determine the best course of treatment.
Doctors usually try to ablate cancerous cells with a series of chemotherapy treatments, radiation sessions, or a combination of the two. In addition, some large tumors can be excised surgically. Lymphoma typically responds best to treatment when it is found in its earliest stages. Cancer that has already spread and formed tumors in other parts of the body is often very difficult to eradicate, and can ultimately be fatal. Following treatment, it is essential for a patient to take specialized medications and schedule regular sessions with specialists to monitor his or her recovery.