A Patient's Guide to Understanding Cutaneous Lymphoma - page 9

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Learning The Basics
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PART 1:
LEARNING THE BASICS
You’ve been diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma – the first thing you may
ask is: What does that mean and how might it affect you?
The easiest way to face any diagnosis is to start to understand it – by
breaking down the information into manageable pieces. First, let’s look at
what lymphoma is in general.
Lymphoma is a cancer of a family of white blood cells called lymphocytes.
When an infection invades the body, lymphocytes are the cells responsible
for recognizing the specific germs responsible for the infection, clearing
them, and providing long-term immunity against them. Because
lymphocytes travel, reside, and work within the lymphatic system (page 2,
figure 1), the lymph nodes swell and grow tender, one sign that an infection
has settled in.
There are two types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. Both work toward
similar goals: they identify and fight infections or abnormal cells. B-cells
work mostly indirectly: they produce antibody proteins that attach to
abnormal cells or infectious agents and alert the immune system to get
working. T-cells find the germs, help B-cells make the antibodies, do some
direct destroying, and turn on and off the immune response.
A diagnosis of lymphoma means that one or more lymphocytes, (B-cell
or T-cell) have mutated and are multiplying uncontrollably. This is the
hallmark of cancer. Naming a specific cancer is based on the type of cells
that are involved and from where it starts, not from where it may travel to.
For example, if a patient has breast cancer and it migrates to a lymph node
or to the bone, it’s still breast cancer, not lymphoma or bone cancer. Like all
Chapter 1
Overview of Lymphomas
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