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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children: Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Posted on- Jul 21, 2015
  • 2301 Views

A lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is a part of the body's immune system that fights against bacteria, viruses, and other unwanted substances. A Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a group of several, very different types of lymphoma. In children, lymphoma can develop outside the lymphatic system. Since lymph tissue is found in so many parts of the body, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can start anywhere from the lymph nodes, liver, or spleen to the stomach, intestines, skin, thyroid gland, or any other part of the body. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in children can be classified into (i) Burkitt lymphoma, (ii) Large cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (LCL) and (iii) Lymphoblastic lymphoma (LBL).

Symptoms related to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

Signs and symptoms of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children include the following:

Tumour related symptoms may include:

Tests and diagnosis for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

After performing a physical examination and checking medical history, your doctor will recommend different tests and procedures to diagnose Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in your child:
  • Biopsy: During a biopsy, a tiny bit of tissue is removed from the body and sent out to a laboratory for analysis. Biopsies used to test for non-Hodgkin lymphoma include excisional biopsy, incisional biopsy, bone marrow biopsy and fine needle aspiration.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap): A lumbar puncture is a procedure in which a doctor uses a needle to take a sample of cerebral spinal fluid to look for cancer cells, blood, or tumour markers.
  • Chest X-Ray: A simple procedure in which the patient lies on a table while an X-ray machine takes an image of the chest.        
  • Computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan: A computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan creates an X-ray picture of the inside of the body from different angles.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: An MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to allow doctors to see inside the body.
  • Gallium scan: A gallium scan uses the injection of a material known as gallium to help show tumours and inflammation.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A positron emission tomography (PET) scan can tell the difference between normal and abnormal cells based on metabolic activity.

Treatment Options for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

Treatment for childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma depends on its stage, your child’s overall health and preferences. The most common treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is Chemotherapy, which uses anti-cancer medicines to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells.

Some children with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma may receive radiation therapy, which uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. Children who receive aggressive treatments may undergo bone marrow or stem cell transplants to replace cells damaged by high doses of chemo or radiation. These transplants involve taking the cells from bone marrow or blood that’s either donated or taken from the patient and inserting them into the patient’s bloodstream.

In high-risk cancer cases, the doctor may use immunotherapy (also known as biological therapy) to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Most kids with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma are cured, though there is a chance of re-occurrence of the cancer. When that happens, bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants are preferable options.