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Lymphoma - What it is

lymphoma conditions and treatments

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the body’s lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system made up of a network of tissues, vessels and organs that work together to fight germs and rid the body of toxins, waste and unwanted materials. The lymphatic system transports lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.

Patients with lymphoma often notice a swelling of their lymph nodes caused by the formation of painless lumps or tumours. Large clusters of lymph nodes can be found in the neck, armpits and groin. Lymphoma can also occur in other organs as small amounts of lymph and lymph tissue pass through virtually all organs in the body.

Lymphoma can be broadly divided into two categories:

  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin’s disease): Patients diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma often have large abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells in their lymph nodes. This disease is highly curable and accounts for about 10 per cent of all lymphoma cases. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most prevalent in:
    • People between 15 and 40 years of age
    • People aged 55 years and above
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common and can be divided into two types:
    1. Aggressive (high grade) non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which tends to grow and spread quickly and cause severe symptoms. If left untreated, it can be fatal within a few months or sooner.
    2. Slow-growing (low-grade) non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which tends to grow and spread slowly and cause few symptoms. It is harder to treat and carries a higher risk of relapse.

    The risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma increases with age, with most patients diagnosed in their 60s and beyond.

Lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in males and sixth in females in Singapore. Over a five-year period from 2014 to 2018, 4,176 cases were reported in Singapore.

Lymphoma - Preparing for surgery

Lymphoma - Post-surgery care

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