Cancers of the lymphatic system — the third most common form of childhood cancer — are much more treatable today than in years past, thanks to advances in care. Miami Cancer Institute, Florida’s only member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Alliance, is up-to-the-minute on these advances and can give our child and family comprehensive care and support from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.
Lymphomas affect the lymphatic system, a network of glands and vessels that transports lymph, a clear fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells, including lymphocytes. Lymphocytes develop from young cells called stem cells. Lymphocytes circulate throughout the body and are concentrated in areas of the lymph system, such as the bone marrow, spleen, tonsils, thymus and lymph nodes (small bean-shaped organs found in the neck, chest, abdomen, groin and underarms).
When lymphocytes begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably, they can cause lymph nodes to enlarge. Lymphoma can spread to any other area of the body, including the bone marrow and the central nervous system.
Lymphoma is generally classified as either Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and each of these types has several subtypes.
Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s disease, most commonly affects children aged 15 and older. Children with Hodgkin lymphoma usually have abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells in the cancerous lymph node. These cells may develop from a type of lymphocytes known as B cells.
The more common subtypes of Hodgkin lymphoma in children and young adults include:
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in boys than girls. It is usually aggressive and grows quickly. The two main subtypes in children are:
Environmental risk factors are not thought to play a large role in childhood leukemia. Some risk factors include having a brother or sister with leukemia, certain genetic disorders, and having been treated with radiation or chemotherapy for another disease.
Because the known risk factors are not preventable, there are no recommended preventive measures.
Many children with lymphoma have no recognized risk factors. Some risk factors for childhood lymphoma include:
Because the known risk factors are not preventable, there are no recommended preventive measures. Some children with risk factors may benefit from genetic testing to determine specific risk.