PMC observes Leukemia/Lymphoma Awareness Month

Amy Charles

September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month and Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) and the Cure Blood Cancer (CBC) Support Group aim to raise public awareness about these types of cancers.


Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-forming cells.


Most often, leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, but some types of leukemia start in other blood cell types. Leukemia is often described as being either acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing). Different types of leukemia have different treatment options and outlooks.


Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, the body's disease-fighting network.


The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect all those areas as well as other organs throughout the body.


Many types of lymphoma exist. The main categories of lymphoma are Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease) and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


"Leukemia and lymphoma can affect individuals of all ages, from very young children to the elderly," said Dr. Uzoma Nwakuche, PMC hematological oncologist.


The recovery rate for these cancers varies. "Most have a good prognosis and many patients are able to achieve a cure through appropriate treatment," Dr. Nwakuche explained. "However, some types of leukemia and lymphoma remain very difficult to treat and have poor outcomes."


There are many subtypes of leukemia and lymphoma.


The type of treatment a patient receives for leukemia depends on factors like age, overall health, type of leukemia and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body.


"Common treatments used to fight leukemia include chemotherapy, radiation and occasionally stem cell transplant," said Dr. Nwakuche.


Symptoms of leukemia include headache, weight loss, pain in the bones or joints and swelling or discomfort in the abdomen, due to the enlargement of the spleen. Like lymphoma, a common symptom of leukemia is swollen lymph nodes, especially in the neck or armpit. Symptoms of acute leukemia may include vomiting, confusion, loss of muscle control and seizures.


The type of lymphoma treatment that is best depends on the type, the severity of lymphoma and patient preferences. "Lymphoma treatment may involve medications, chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplant," said Dr. Nwakuche.


Signs and symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma may include painless swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin, persistent fatigue, fever and chills, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, itching and increased sensitivity to the effects of alcohol or pain in your lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.


Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is more common than the Hodgkin's lymphoma. Symptoms may include painless, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin, abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing, fatigue, fever, night sweats and weight loss.


The CBC Support Group meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Leonard Lawson Cancer Center located at 172 S. Mayo Trail in Pikeville.