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Childhood Lymphoma

Pediatrics and Child Health

Childhood lymphoma is divided in two main categories: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They are the fifth leading type of cancer in children. The lymphatic system functions as part of the immune system to fight diseases and infections. Most lymphomas are thought to be caused by genetic mutations in the blood cells. Children with inherited immune deficiencies, children who have been treated with certain drugs following an organ transplant, and children who have received radiation and chemotherapy for other cancers are at greater risk for developing lymphoma.

Types of Childhood Lymphoma

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized by swelling in the lymph nodes. Some research studies suggest that children exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis and HIV are at greater risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For unknown reasons, the disease affects more males than females. Hodgkin’s lymphoma causes cells in the lymphatic system to reproduce abnormally resulting in a weakened immune system. Cancerous cells from Hodgkin’s lymphoma can spread to other tissues and organs of the body. Siblings and cousins of patients who suffer from the disease have an increased chance of developing the disease.

Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, groin, and chest
  • Difficulty breathing due to enlarged nodes in the chest
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Itching skin
  • Frequent viral infections, such as colds, flu, and sinus infections

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is also a cancer in the lymphatic system. This disease accounts for almost 85 percent of lymphomas diagnosed in the US. Genetics and exposure to viral infections are thought to be the cause of most cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma causes rapid, out of control cell development in the lymphatic system, which causes tumors to grow. The diseased cells can also spread to other parts of the body. This type of lymphoma is more common in males than females, and occurs more frequently in Caucasian children than children of other races. There are different classifications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma based on the extent of the disease and the specific type of cells involved.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, chest, abdomen, underarm, or groin
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss/ loss of appetite
  • Itching skin
  • Recurring infections

Treatment of Childhood Lymphoma

The treatment of both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are often very similar and may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Spinal taps
  • Antibiotics
  • Care for side effects of treatment
  • Long-term tests and follow-up care to detect recurrence of the disease

Prompt medical attention and treatment are vital for the best outcomes of childhood lymphoma. The symptoms of childhood lymphoma are often similar to other medical conditions. If your child has any of these symptoms, contact your physician immediately.

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