NHL is a type of cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It helps to fight diseases and infections. The lymphatic system also helps with balancing fluids in different parts of the body. The lymphatic system includes:
- Lymph. This is a fluid that contains lymphocyte cells.
- Lymph vessels. These are tiny tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body.
- Lymphocytes. These are a type of white blood cells that fight infections and disease. NHL starts when these cells grow out of control.
- Lymph nodes. These are small bean-shaped organs that contain lymphocytes. They are in the underarm, groin, neck, chest, belly (abdomen), and other parts of the body. They filter the lymph fluid as it moves around the body.
- Other organs and body tissues. The lymphatic system includes the bone marrow where blood is made. And it includes the spleen, thymus, tonsils, and parts of the digestive tract.
NHL causes abnormal growth of the cells in the lymphatic system. Over time this causes tumors to grow. The cells can also spread to other organs and tissues in the body (metastasis). NHL is a rare disease in children. It can occur at any age, and affects boys more often than girls.
There are different types of NHL in children. But most tend to grow quickly. Your care team may order different tests based on what type of lymphoma is found. Treatment options are based on the specific type of lymphoma as well.
In many cases, NHL in children may not cause symptoms until it has grown or spread. Many children have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis. This is because the symptoms start suddenly, and the tumors tend to grow fast. A child can become very sick in a few days to a few weeks.
Signs and symptoms vary depending on the type of NHL.
Symptoms of a belly (abdominal) tumor can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble with bowel movements (constipation)
- Poor appetite
Symptoms of a chest tumor include:
- Trouble breathing
- Pain with deep breaths
- Cough or wheezing
- Swelling and a blue color of the skin on the head and arms
Other symptoms may include:
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in neck, chest, abdomen, underarm, or groin
- Sore throat
- Bone and joint pain
- Night sweats
- Tiring easily (fatigue)
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Itching of the skin
- Recurring infections
The symptoms of NHL can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.