What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a general term for cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. Lymphoma cancers account for about 5 percent of all cases of cancer in this country. One type of lymphoma is called Hodgkin's disease. All other lymphomas are grouped together and are called non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.
The lymphatic system is part of the body's immune defense system. Its job is to help fight diseases and infection. The lymphatic system includes a network of thin tubes that branch, like blood vessels, into tissues throughout the body. Lymphatic vessels carry lymph, a colorless, watery fluid that contains infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. Along this network of vessels are small, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen. Other parts of the lymphatic system are the spleen, thymus, tonsils, and bone marrow. Lymphatic tissue is also found in other parts of the body, including the stomach, intestines and skin.
Like all types of cancer, lymphoma cancers are diseases of the body's cells. Healthy cells grow, divide and replace themselves in an orderly manner. This process keeps the body in good repair.
In the non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally. They divide too rapidly and grow without any order or control. Too much tissue is formed, and tumors begin to grow. The cancer cells can also spread to other organs.