Lymphomas are cancers that start in a child's lymphatic system — the part of the body that works with the immune system to help fight infections and diseases.
There are two types of pediatric lymphoma:
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (also called NHL, non-Hodgkin’s disease, or just non-Hodgkin’s, for short) is the most common type of pediatric lymphoma. This type of cancer develops when there are too many white blood cells in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, and other areas. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is usually diagnosed in children between the ages of 7 and 11, but older kids and adults can have it, too.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma (also called Hodgkin’s disease) develops when abnormal B cells (called Reed-Sternberg cells) start to form in the lymph nodes, spleen, and other areas of the body. Although associated with progressive swelling in the lymph nodes (or glands), Hodgkin’s lymphoma is often hard to diagnosis because symptoms can seem like the flu. Most kids with Hodgkin’s lymphoma are diagnosed around age 15.
Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma in Children
Each individual child’s symptoms can vary, but common signs and symptoms of pediatric lymphoma may include:
swelling (typically where lymph nodes are found such as the neck, chest, abdomen, underarms, and groin areas)
bone and joint pain
fatigue (more tired than usual)
sudden and increased weight loss
burning and itching skin
IMPORTANT NOTE: These signs and symptoms together or on their own do not automatically mean that a child has lymphoma. Any or all of these could be a sign of something else. And not all need be present to indicate lymphoma or any other kind of cancer.
Diagnosing Pediatric Lymphoma
Our pediatric cancer care experts will conduct a complete exam of your child and a medical history evaluation. Other diagnostic tests for pediatric lymphoma may include:
blood and urine tests
lymph node biopsy (taking a sample of cells or tissues for examination)
CAT scan (which stands for computed tomography) — a painless test that uses a special X-ray machine to take black-and-white pictures of the lungs, heart, blood vessels, airway passages, ribs, and lymph nodes
PET scan (which stands for positron emission tomography) — an imaging test that helps doctors see how the organs and tissues inside your child’s body are functioning
lumbar puncture (also called a spinal tap – when a thin needle is placed in the lower-back area of the spinal cord so we can take and then examine a sample of spinal fluid)
We know that tests can be scary – for you and your child. Whatever kind of tests your child might need, know that your Nemours pediatric cancer care team will do everything we can to make the experience as comfortable as possible – physically and emotionally. We’ll give sedation or anesthesia as needed and offer support and guidance at every step.
At Nemours, we know that getting a cancer diagnosis can be very frightening and overwhelming for your whole family. That’s why Nemours’ board-certified pediatric hematologists-oncologists, specialty nurses, cancer researchers, and other cancer experts are focused on helping not only your child, but your family, too.
From diagnosis to treatment (and beyond) we’ll be here to help guide your family through your lymphoma journey – and to strive and hope, with you, for a better tomorrow.