Lymphoma is a type of cancer involving lymphocytes — immune system cells that exist in lymph nodes, the spleen and bone marrow — that is usually treated with chemotherapy. Healthy lymphocytes destroy infectious organisms and abnormal cells. A malignant lymphocyte originates in the lymph nodes, forming a tumor deposit that appears as an enlarged node. The spleen plays an important role in the immune system by producing lymphocytes; removing old and damaged red blood cells, bacteria and cell waste; recycling iron; and storing a reserve of blood. There are four main types of lymphoma of the spleen: follicular lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma, splenic marginal zone B-cell lymphoma and lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.
Follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of lymphoma of the spleen that affects B-lymphocytes, represents 30 percent of all cases of lymphoma. This type of cancer is usually detected between the ages of 60 to 65. Common symptoms described by patients with follicular lymphoma include fatigue, anemia, loss of appetite and enlarged lymph nodes, as well as abdominal discomfort or fullness, which is caused by an enlarged spleen or liver. Less-common symptoms, referred to as B symptoms, include night sweats, high temperatures and weight loss. Standard treatment includes monitoring of the disease until it begins to progress, chemotherapy, a drug called rituximab, radioimmunotherapy and stem cell transplants.
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a fast-growing lymphoma of the spleen that affects B-lymphocytes, and it represents approximately 6 percent of all non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. It affects four times the number of men as compared with the number of women, and the median age at diagnosis of MCL is 58. Common symptoms are similar to those experienced by follicular lymphoma patients. Chemotherapy is the primary form of treatment, because the medications are able to reach all parts of the body through the blood. Localized treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy have limited treatment roles.
Splenic marginal zone B-cell lymphoma is a rare type of splenic lymphoma that might also be found in the bone marrow and peripheral blood. Patients typically are elderly men. Common physical complaints include fatigue and abdominal discomfort caused by an enlarged spleen. This type of cancer is strongly associated with infections such as Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis C. A splenectomy is usually performed on patients with this type of lymphoma of the spleen, as is follow-up chemotherapy.
Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma is a rare type of slowly progressing lymphoma of the spleen that affects approximately 1-2 percent of all lymphomas. The affected cells are typically found in the spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes. This type of splenic lymphoma causes the liquid part of the blood to thicken, leading to decreased blood flow to many organs.
The specific symptoms experienced by patients who have lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma depend on which organs are affected by a decrease in blood supply. Symptoms might include vision problems because of poor circulation to the blood vessels in the back of the eyes as well as headaches, dizziness and confusion because of poor circulation within the brain. Fatigue and weakness are other common symptoms, as is a tendency to bleed and bruise easily. Common treatments include splenectomy, chemotherapy and plasma exchange, also called plasmapheresis.