Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that affects lymphocyte cells; in particular, it affects B-cells. B-cells, along with Natural Killer and T-cells, are white blood cells and make up a vital part of the human and vertebrae animal immune system. While there are over 60 types of lymphoma, Follicular lymphoma is one of the most common types thereof, making up in the area of 30% of all diagnosed cases of the disease. It primarily affect fully grown adults, with the average age of diagnosed patients being around 60 years of age, and is marginally more common in females than in males.
From Symptoms to Diagnosis
Symptoms of any form of lymphoma include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpit; this is painless in virtually all cases and can therefore easily go unnoticed. In some cases the swelling may be accompanied by so called b-symptoms which may include tiredness, dramatic weight loss, lack of appetite, difficulty swallowing or nightly sweating.
If you suffer from one or several of these symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes in particular, you are advised to seek medical diagnosis. The by far most common way of diagnosing follicular lymphoma, as well as other forms thereof, is by fully removing or performing a biopsy upon the swollen lymph node in order to exam it using a microscope, which allows for the detection of affected cells. Should it be found to contain such cells, you will be required to undergo additional tests which may include scans, x-rays, blood, or bone marrow tests; these allow doctors to determine whether the lymphoma might have spread to additional parts of the body.
Follicular Lymphoma Stages
Follicular lymphoma is divided into four separate stages depending on the degree to which the patient is affected, and these are:
- Stage 1 – this is where only one group of lymph nodes has been affected, meaning that the cancer has not spread;
- Stage 2 – this is where several groups of lymph nodes, all located either below or above the patient's diaphragm, have been affected;
- Stage 3 – this is where several groups of lymph nodes, located both below and above the patient's diaphragm, have been affected; and
- Stage 4 – this is where not only lymph nodes are affected, meaning that the cancer has also spread to other organs such as lungs or bones.
As with general diagnosis, only a trained medical professional can accurately determine at which stage any particular patient's follicular lymphoma is located.
Symptoms of Follicular Lymphoma
If the patient is now showing any of the symptoms associated with follicular lymphoma, immediate treatment may not be required. Should treatment be required, the most common form thereof is chemotherapy, which is the intravenous injection of a combination of drugs which may require prolonged stay at the hospital. The number of treatments needed will vary depending on the severity of the case, and can range from a handful treatments to several years of medical intervention. Only a doctor will be able to tell you whether treatment is necessary.