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There are two types of lymphocytes affected by lymphoma: T cells and B cells, although B cell lymphomas are much more common.
There are several types of lymphoma, classified by how the cells appear under a microscope. In Hodgkin lymphoma, the disease is defined by the presence of Reed Sternberg cells, which are large cells that can have more than one nucleus. These cells grow and divide more quickly and live longer than normal cells. They also produce substances that encourage more healthy cells to gather in the lymph nodes. These healthy cells themselves produce substances that encourage the growth of Reed Sternberg cells. There are several subtypes of Hodgkin Lymphoma, but the vast majority are classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), or simply lymphoma, does not have Reed Sternberg cells. There are several subtypes of NHL, including:
- Burkitt's Lymphoma (BL) affects B cell lymphocytes. It is one of the fastest-growing cancers.
- Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (LBL) mostly affects T cell lymphocytes and is similar to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). It makes up about one-third of all childhood NHL, and is more common in boys.
- Large Cell Lymphoma (LCL) includes two subtypes: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) mostly affects pre-adolescent and teens; and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is more common in adolescents.
NHL is also classified by how fast it spreads. Nearly all cases of pediatric NHL are the aggressive form of the disease.
Childhood lymphoma risk factors
A risk factor is anything that increases the chances of a person developing a disease.
There are many different types of lymphoma, so not every risk factor applies to every type. In addition, most pediatric lymphoma patients don't have any of the risk factors listed here (other than race and gender). Nonetheless, the disease's risk factors include:
- Gender: Hodgkin lymphoma is more predominant in males than females.
- Race: Whites are more likely to contract the disease than other groups.
- Infections including Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis, and HIV
- Immune System diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Immune deficiency syndromes, including:
- Bloom syndrome
- Common variable immunodeficiency
- Severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID)
- Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
- Taking immunosuppressants due to organ transplant
- Having a parent or sibling with the disease
Some cases of lymphoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Learn more about the risk to you and your family on our genetic testing page.
Learn more about childhood lymphoma:
Why come to MD Anderson for childhood lymphoma care?
At MD Anderson's Children's Cancer Hospital, we know your child's health and well being are your number one concern. Our renowned experts customize your child's lymphoma treatment utilizing the most advanced treatments and techniques with the least impact on your child's growing body.
Lymphoma in Children
As part of one of the world's most active cancer centers, the Children's Cancer Hospital has remarkable experience and skill in these types of cancer. This can make a difference in your child's outcome.
A team of specially trained physicians follows your child throughout lymphoma treatment, all the way to survivorship. They communicate closely with each other, and with you, to ensure comprehensive, personalized care. They are supported by full complement of health care professionals dedicated to your child's treatment, including nurses, physician assistants, therapists and others.
Children's Cancer Hospital offers clinical trials for innovative new treatments for lymphoma. Behind the scenes we are working on groundbreaking basic science research to change the future of pediatric cancer.
Treating the Whole Child
Children's Cancer Hospital is designed just for children, with a full range of services and amenities that help make the child and family's experience as comfortable as possible. We go beyond medical care to deliver a comprehensive experience that treats the whole child.
And, at Children's Cancer Hospital, your child benefits from the resources and expertise of one of the nation's top cancer centers.
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As a two-time survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, David Olazaba has already beaten the odds in some ways. Now, the teen is making history through a partnership between MD Anderson, NASA and ILC Dover, a manufacturer of spacesuits.
David is one of hundreds of young people who participates in the MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital Arts in Medicine program, which helps pediatric patients feel better mentally, physically and spiritually as they go through cancer treatment.
Its most recent endeavor is the design of three spacesuits: a replica spacesuit adorned with hand-painted art “patches,” a real flight suit decorated with special colorful markers, and a third suit still under development, which will involve children from other hospitals around the world.
“I feel like one of the luckiest people,” says David, who worked on the first two suits. “You don’t get an opportunity like this every day.”
Art to the rescue
David first became involved with the Arts in Medicine program in 2010. He worked on its inaugural project, the Tree of Life sculpture.
“It’s fun to do, makes the day go by much faster, and gets your mind off the pain and the stresses of life in general,” he says.
The then-12-year-old had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009, after experiencing terrible pain in his hip. “It felt like knives,” David says. “But my pediatrician said they were just growing pains.”
David and his mother knew it was something more than that when he began to lose weight and run frequent fevers. After an MRI revealed a large mass in David’s right hip, he was referred to MD Anderson. Here, he met Cesar Nunez, M.D., and began chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have a good understanding of what cancer was,” David says. “I lost my hair and had some nausea, but mostly I felt normal.”
The treatments David received put his cancer in remission for the next five years. But he returned to MD Anderson last November after a follow-up CT scan revealed a mass in the right side of his neck. The lymphoma was back.
David admits he was disappointed by the recurrence, but he drew comfort from his previous experience at MD Anderson – and with the Arts in Medicine program.
“Everything is a little easier now,” says David, who is 18 and making plans for college. “I know what to expect.”
The one bright spot of his cancer’s return has been the chance to work on the spacesuits, which David describes as his favorite project so far. “This is the first spacesuit that’s actually art, so that’s making history right there,” David says. “And it’s going to be around for a while. So, one day, I can tell other people, ‘Hey, my art is on there.’”
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