(CNN Spanish) — Legendary actress and activist Jane Fonda announced that she has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymphatic system, and has already started chemotherapy.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma begins in lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. according to the American Cancer Society.
It can usually start anywhere in the body where there is lymphatic tissue. Some of the sites where this tissue is found are the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, thymus, tonsils, and digestive tract.
About 4% of all cancers in the United States are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, making it one of the most common in the country. According to statistics According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, just over 71,500 cases of this type of cancer were reported, which caused the death of nearly 20,300 people that year.
(Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in fact, is more common in developed countries like the United States and European nations.)
Risk factors in non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Some of the risk factors that increase your chances of getting this type of cancer are having advanced disease, being male, and/or being white, according to the National Cancer Institute. More than half of the patients diagnosed with the disease are over 65 years oldaccording to the American Cancer Society.
There are studies that suggest that being overweight and obese could also increase the chances, although more research is needed to confirm this.
It can also influence having certain health problems that affect the immune system such as inherited immune disorder, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis, HIV/AIDS infection and Estein-Barr virus, among others.
Exposure to certain chemicals and medications has also been associated with increased risk, but not conclusively.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include swollen lymph nodes, for example in the neck, armpits, stomach, and groin, excessive night sweats, and fever for no other known reason. according to the National Cancer Institute. Excessive night sweats, feeling very tired, and weight loss for no other reason may also occur.
Two other possible symptoms are pain in the chest, bones, or abdomen and the presence of a rash or itchy skin.
In her post, Fonda explained that she has already started chemotherapy treatment. This is one of the possibilities of action against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is also treated depending on the case with radiotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery, stem cell transplant, antibiotic therapy, among others.
One of the factors that influences the treatment decision is whether it is a slow-growing or a fast-growing lymphoma. In the first case, according to the National Cancer Institute, the lymphoma tends to spread slowly and the symptoms are few, while in the opposite case the signs and symptoms can be severe.
Fonda touched on the treatment in her post. “This is a very treatable cancer. 80% of people survive so I feel very lucky,” she wrote.
And then she spoke about access to health in the United States: “I’m also lucky because I have health insurance and access to the best doctors and treatments. I realize, and it’s painful, that I am privileged in this. Almost all families in the United States America has had to deal with cancer at one point or another and too many don’t have access to the quality health care I’m getting and this is not right.”