Lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system. An important part of the body’s immune system, the lymphatic system consists of a vast network of organs, tissues and vessels that work together to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
Lymphoma develops when certain white blood cells (lymphocytes) undergo abnormal changes that cause them to grow uncontrollably. The cancer can occur in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus or bone marrow.
How does lymphoma affect the body?
Because abnormal lymphocytes do not function properly, lymphoma can interfere with the immune system’s ability to fight off germs, viruses and other harmful invaders. Furthermore, as atypical lymphocytes build up in the bone marrow, they can crowd out healthy lymphocytes and hinder the production of new blood cells needed by the body. As a result, the body can become more susceptible to infections, which may be more severe or last longer than usual.
Additionally, to fuel their rapid growth, cancer cells cause the body to expend a substantial amount of energy. In addition to fatigue, this can lead to unintended weight loss and reduced muscle mass.
Lumps under the skin
One common symptom of lymphoma is swollen lymph nodes, which can create visible lumps under the skin, usually in the neck, armpit or groin area. However, there are many types of benign skin lumps, such as cysts and lipomas, which are not necessarily a cause for concern. What’s more, lymph nodes normally become engorged with white blood cells when the body is fighting off an infection, and the swelling generally subsides after the infection clears. But lymph nodes that become noticeably enlarged without an infection should be checked by a physician.
The characteristics of lymphoma lumps
Lymph nodes are considered to be enlarged if they measure more than 1.5 cm in diameter. Although lymphoma lumps often appear in clusters, it is possible to have a single lump. The lumps may be confined to one area of the body, such as the neck, or develop in multiple areas, such as the neck, armpits and groin. Lymphoma lumps have a rubbery feel and are usually painless. While some lymphoma lumps develop within a matter of days, others can take months or even years to become noticeable.
Entrust your care to Moffitt
If you are concerned about lymphoma symptoms or would like to receive a second opinion on your diagnosis, you are welcome to consult with the multispecialty team in the renowned Malignant Hematology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. If we confirm your lymphoma diagnosis, we will collaboratively develop an individualized treatment plan to address your specific type and stage of lymphoma and help you achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life. In a single location, you will have convenient access to multiple expert opinions as well as the latest breakthroughs in lymphoma treatment, including promising new therapies available exclusively through our robust clinical trials program.
You can feel confident that you’re in good hands with Moffitt, a high-volume cancer center that offers you the benefit of our expertise. With many opportunities to treat patients for blood or bone marrow cancer, our physicians have gained extensive experience in working with all types of lymphoma, including rare and complex variants. This means you’ll have opportunities to work with experienced and respected physicians who specialize in the specific type of lymphoma you are fighting.