Lymphoma  in children and young adults

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system and is caused by the rapid and uncontrolled growth of abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which plays an important role in the immune system and fights infection.

There are two types of lymphoma:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma – unlike other lymphomas, Hodgkin lymphoma features the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cancer cell
  • Non-Hodgkin (NHL) – also known as B and T cell lymphomas. Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that occur in children and young adults include lymphoblastic lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma and large cell lymphoma

According to the Singapore Childhood Cancer Registry, lymphoma is the third most common childhood cancer in Singapore and accounts for 10% of all childhood cancer diagnoses.

Signs and symptoms of lymphoma

The most common symptom of lymphoma in children and young adults is the painless swelling of one or more lymph nodes (glands). Hodgkin lymphoma is more likely to appear in the neck, underarms and chest, while non–Hodgkin can develop in lymph nodes throughout the body. The symptoms that are experienced may also differ depending on the location of the lymphoma in the body.

These include:

  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent fatigue and lack of energy
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Itching or a rash
  • Chronic cough or trouble breathing (due to swollen lymph nodes in chest)
  • Bowel changes/blockage (due to swollen lymph nodes in abdomen)

Treatment for lymphoma

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