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Childhood Lymphoma Risk

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

This lymphoma is defined by the presence of specific malignant cells termed as Reed-Sternberg cells which are present in the lymph nodes or in other lymphatic tissues. The most common symptom of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is an enlargement of the lymph nodes (known as swollen glands) which is painless and located in the neck (right above the collarbone), or it can sometimes be in the underarm area or in one’s groin.

If the cancer involves the lymph nodes in the centre of the person’s chest, the pressure from its swelling might trigger coughs, shortness of breath or even problems in blood flowing to and from the heart. About one third patients of this disease have other symptoms which include fatigue, poor appetite, hives, unexplained fever, itching, night sweats, and weight loss.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

This can occur at any age during one’s childhood, but is rare before the age of 3. This disease is a little more common than Hodgkin’s disease in children younger than 15 years of age. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there is malignant growth of certain types of lymphocytes which is also seen in one of the various forms of leukaemia, thus making it difficult to distinguish between lymphoma and leukaemia in children.

Childhood Lymphoma Risk

Both Hodgkin’s disease and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occur more in people with certain immune deficiencies, including inherited immune defects, children with HIV (infected from parents) or those children who have been treated with immunosuppressive drugs after their organ transplants.

No lifestyle factors have been linked to childhood lymphomas. However, children who have received radiation treatments or even chemotherapy for other kinds of cancer appear to be at a higher risk of developing lymphoma later in their lives.

A majority of cases have revealed that neither the parents nor their children have any control over the factors that cause lymphomas. They mostly come from non-inherited mutations in the genes of their growing blood cells.

Regular paediatric checkups can sometimes reveal early symptoms of lymphoma where it originates from an inherited immune problem, HIV infection etc.

Treatment

Treatment of lymphoma in children is determined by staging, a procedure via which one can categorize or classify the patients according to how extensive their disease is at the time of their diagnosis. The primary form of treatment for all types of lymphoma is chemotherapy (using highly potent drugs to kill cancer cells). In some cases, radiation (high-energy rays which shrink tumours) might also be used.

Side Effects

Intensive chemotherapy for lymphoma might affect the bone marrow, causing anaemia and bleeding problems, as well as increasing the risk for serious infections in the future.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments have other side effects too, some of which are short-term (hair loss, changes in skin colour, nausea and vomiting) and some are long-term (heart and kidney damage, thyroid problems). Parents should make it a point to discuss these with their doctor before letting their child go in for treatment.


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