Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects white blood cells (lymphocytes); first detailed by Thomas Hodgkin in 1832, there are now over 70 documented forms of the cancer. These are generally categories depending which type of white blood cell they affect, and as such will either fall in the category of B-cell, T-cell or Natural Killer (NK) cell lymphoma – this is in accordance with the most recent classification system, as developed by the World Health Organisation in 2008. Previous systems of classification would simply list a type of lymphoma as either Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's, though this is now largely considered an out-dated system as it fails to describe the lymphoma sufficiently. However, it is still in common use as a broad classifier.
Plasmablastic lymphoma is one of the over 70 documented forms of lymphoma cancer, and would be broadly classified as a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is most commonly found in the African continent, due to its prominence in those suffering from an auto-immune decease; and particularly strongly with HIV. Those who are prescribed an immunosuppressive drug – such as anyone who has had an organ transplant, where such drugs are prescribed in order to ensure that the host body does not fight the donated organ – are at increased risk, though the strongest link has been found to HIV patients. As with some other forms of lymphoma (e.g. Burkitt's lymphoma) a link has also been found between plasmablastic lymphoma and the Epstein-Barr Virus (or EBV).
The vast majority of lymphoma cancer varieties share a range of symptoms, and as such it is difficult to determine which type of lymphoma a patient may be suffering from without performing blood sample tests and a possible biopsy. In general, the most commonly presented symptoms of lymphoma cancer, which does include plasmablastic lymphoma, include:
- A loss of energy, which could present itself as lethargy;
- A lack of appetite, which in some forms may be due to a swelling of the neck, making it more difficult to swallow;
- Inexplicable raised temperature, or fever, which doesn't go away within a normal timeframe; and
- Heavy nocturnal sweating when asleep.
It is particularly common for plasmablastic lymphoma to present itself in the oral cavity, which is otherwise quite unusual for lymphoma, and as such it may also present oral symptoms. These may include an oral lesion and/or inexplicable toothache (i.e. one not caused by poor dental hygiene or other gum disease).
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosis of plasmablastic lymphoma may include a blood test as well as the biopsy (that is, the removal of a small part) of the affected area; these samples are then checked under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells. Should infected cells be found, common treatment includes the use of chemotherapy. In short, chemotherapy is the name used for the administration of a combination of drugs which are, generally, administered intravenously (though for some forms of skin cancer, for example, it may be administered as a cream which is rubbed directly into the affected area).