Lymphoma is a type of cancer that not only displays the trademark side effects of other cancers, but also compromises the immune system, making the patient vulnerable to other diseases. When combined with invasive and stressful treatments like chemo or radiation therapy, Hodgkin’s lymphoma has the potential to be a very debilitating disease.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease is a disorder of the lymphatic system. There are lymph nodes all over the body, including in the brain, bone marrow, and spleen. You can feel them as little lumps in your groin, armpits, and along the underside of the jaw. If you can feel them in your bone marrow or brain, you are pressing too hard.
Lymphoma affects the way white blood cells called lymphocytes behave. Lymphocytes are critical for immunity and are antagonistic towards viruses and bacteria. Hodgkin’s lymphoma infects the cells responsible for making antibodies.
Antibodies are protein markers that the body uses to identify invading pathogens. When an invader is identified, the immune system goes to work to seek and destroy. The lymphatic system then drains the harmless waste away and the body continues along, oblivious and healthy.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma turns off the body’s seek and destroy system. Cells that would have been targeted and flushed are now able to multiply as they please. This manifests in the body as swollen lymph nodes, usually in the chest and armpits.
The types of symptoms can vary depending on where the lymphoma begins. Internal glands that swell can put pressure on the stomach and gut, inducing nausea. Masses that appear in the chest or armpits will metastasise to the nearest cluster of lymph glands and so on.
The compromised immune system also makes the patient vulnerable to infection, bacterial diseases, and viruses. When your body gets a cold or the flu, the symptoms you experience are your body’s battle with the pathogen flowing in your blood. All thanks to your immune system.
Without an active immune system, a dose of the flu can be devastating.