The body's lymphatic system is an elaborate network of lymph nodes that are part of the body's disease-fighting system. A lymphoma is a form of cancer that invades the lymph nodes and spreads throughout the body. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma occurs when white blood cells called lymphocytes start creating tumors on the lymph nodes. Hodgkin's lymphoma (also called Hodgkin's disease) occurs when the lymph system mutates and grows well beyond the required amount.
There are several other forms of lymphoma, but these two are far and away the most common. Scientists are not sure what causes any form of lymphoma, but most experts agree it generally begins with a genetic mutation of lymphocyte cells. This means it is not possible to accidentally contract lymphoma. The condition has to develop in the body.
The most common form of lymphoma is classic Hodgkin's, and it is typified by the rapid growth of large cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. These cells start to grow within the lymph nodes and rapidly spread to other parts of the body. Because genetic mutation is the primary cause of lymphoma, the risk factors are limited. You are more prone to getting lymphoma if you are over the age of 55, have lymphoma in your family medical history, or if you are male. You are also susceptible to lymphoma if you have ever contracted the Epstein-Barr virus.
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