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Cancer Genetics

Understanding Lymphoma

06/30/1999

Question:

My mother passed away from cancer in her late forties and now my older brother age 40 has been diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes the same thing my mother had.. What should I do to help myself (age 34) to avoid getting this and what tests should I ask for to see if I don`t already have it?

Answer:

Cancer of the lymph nodes is known as lymphoma. There are several different types of lymphoma. Lymphoma usually does not run in families but is the fifth most common type of cancer. Sometimes it will occur more than once in a family by chance alone. There have been some families reported who have appeared to have Hodgkins` disease (a type of lymphoma) running in their family in a way that appears more suspicious than chance alone.

We don`t know what causes lymphoma although some viral illnesses have been associated with it (HIV, infectious mononucleosis, etc.). There isn`t really any way to avoid getting a lymphoma through lifestyle changes.

Your best protection is to have regular check-ups by your doctor and to be aware of the most common early symptoms of lymphoma which include: 1) persistent painless enlargement of lymph nodes not associated with an infection or 2) weight loss, fever persisting for several weeks, and night sweats.

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Response by:

Judith A Westman, MD Judith A Westman, MD
Associate Professor, Clinical Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Biochemistry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University