Malignant is a medical term which can be defined as bad, very dangerous, or something which becomes progressively worse. It is a term which is often used when describing a tumour which is of a dangerous nature; that is, one that may grow uncontrollably and/or spread to other organs, and which is in risk of eventually causing the death of the affected patient. In other words, lymphoma which is described as malignant is one that is cancerous and needs immediate treatment.
What is Lymphoma
Lymphoma, or malignant lymphoma, is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic cells of vertebrae animals. Lymphatic cells are an important part of the human immune defence system, and it can be further divided into Natural Killer-cells, T-cells and B-cells- each of these cells can be affected by several variations of lymphatic cancer, and recent systems of lymphatic cancer classification categorise the disease by the type of healthy cell which it most resembles. That is, lymphatic cancers are classified depending on whether they primarily affect B-cells, T-cells or Natural Killer cells. A further category which is also widely recognised is Hodgkin's lymphoma – however recent research has shown that these could in fact be classified as B-cell lymphomas.
Hodgkin is the surname of the man who first described lymphoma cancer – his full name was Thomas Hodgkin – in 1832. Since then lymphomas have traditionally been divided into Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma depending on their characteristics, and this continued until the mid-1990s. Practitioners have largely moved away from referring to a lymphoma as Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's now, however, as the term is considered rather to lack descriptive power and being too general.
Signs of Malignant Lymphoma
There are over 70 types of lymphoma cancer, and each may present slightly different signs. However, all of them share a swelling of lymph nodes – often in the neck, groin or armpit – which may be detectable by hand. There is also a list of symptoms which may be linked to lymphoma, though it should be noted that each of these symptoms can be a sign of something completely unrelated to cancer, and these include:
- Irritable and itchy skin
- Heavy nightly sweating
- Unexplained and dramatic loss of weight
- Difficulty swallowing
- A loss of appetite
- Unexplained raised temperatures
If you suffer from one or several of the above signs – particularly in combination with swollen lymph nodes – you are recommended to seek the advice of a medical professional, such as your local GP. Self-diagnosis is never accurate, and should only ever be used a reason to seek medical advice, rather than a direct source of worry or fear. Remember that each of these symptoms can simply be linked to the common cold or other minor ailments rather than malignant lymphoma, and children in particular may show a swelling of the lymph glands in the neck in connection with a cough or cold.
Lymphoma represents less than 5 per cent of cancers diagnosed in the UK according to statistics from Cancer Research UK.