by Wilfred Okiche
Actor and star of the Spartacus TV series, Andy Whitfield passed away recently, months after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was aged 39.
We bring you basic information you need to know about the condition.
What is it?
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is a malignant cancer of the blood affecting the lymph nodes and lymphoid tissues. It is the commonest blood cancer.
Who does it affect?
Can affect anyone but is commoner in whites than blacks and Asians. It is slightly commoner in males than females with a ratio of 1.4 : 1. Commonest in older people above 50years but may affect young adults and children too. About 12 new cases per 100,000 people every year.
The cause is unknown but it may be a late manifestation of HIV infection and immune suppressed patients. It is also associated with some viral and bacterial infections. Chromosomal and genetic disposition may play a role.
How does it present?
Painless swelling on the neck or armpit caused by enlargement of the lymph nodes is the commonest symptom. There may be weight loss, fever, itching and sweating. Abdominal swelling may occur due to enlargement of the liver and spleen. May spread to the chest, testes, brain or skin.
It can be treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or transplantation depending on the stage, symptoms, and age at presentation.
Potential for cure depends on the type, stage at presentation and patient’s response to initial therapy. Low grade lymphomas may relapse and has a median survival rate of 5-10yrs. High grade lymphomas are more aggressive but are more responsive to therapy with median survival rate of 2-5yrs.