Lymphoma was first described by Thomas Hodgkin in 1832; ever since, the wide number of specific types of lymphoma that have been found and described have been classified as Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's, depending on the traits they show. More recent classifying systems will separate them further by based on the type of cell they affect, and a 2008 system developed by the World Health Organisation groups the various types of lymphoma into T-cell, B-cell, Natural Killer-cell and Hodgkin's lymphoma; however, it has been argued that Hodgkin's lymphoma could be merged into the B-cell category. As such, T-cell lymphoma would historically be classified as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
What are T-cells?
T-cells are a form of lymphocyte, which is the technical term for a white blood cell. In other words, they make up an important part of the human immune defence system. There are a few different types of t-cells and each of them perform different functions, all related to our immune defence, including the destruction of tumour and virally affected cells and assisting other white blood cells. T-cell lymphoma, or cancer developed within T-cells, has been linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (which is a type of Herpes virus) and the T-cell Leukaemia Virus.
What Causes T-cell Lymphoma?
As with virtually all forms of cancer, research has been unable to identify a particular root cause behind the development of T-cell lymphoma. It is not infectious and as such there is no risk of it being passed from a diagnosed patient to a non-suffering individual. There is no preventive techniques available that can help avoid the development.
Diagnosing T-cell Lymphoma
The diagnosis of any form of lymphoma can only reliably be done by a medical professional. Symptoms that would warranty medical consultation include the swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpit and these may be accompanied by heavy nocturnal sweating, itchy skin, and inexplicable and dramatic weight loss. The medical process of diagnosing a patient with any form of lymphoma revolves around the full or partial removal of the swollen lymph gland, which is then sent off for microscopic analysis in order to determine whether the cells are indeed affected.
Should the microscopic analysis show signs of lymphoma, the doctor may require further testing which could include bone marrow or blood tests, scans, or x-rays, which will help determine whether the patient is suffering from t-cell lymphoma or indeed another type of lymphoma, which in turn will aid in determining the most appropriate course of action.
In the vast majority of cases, most forms of lymphoma are treated through the use of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy means that a combination of drugs will be injected into the patient intravenously, which can be a very physically exhausting process, and it runs a fairly high risk of causing unwanted and negative side effects – though it remains the most common and effective form of treatment to date. The number of treatments requires can vary wide from one case to another, and may involve several years of continuous treatment or merely a handful of treatments in a short period of time.