Beating Lymphoma Starts with Proper Diagnosis

January 05, 2021

Actor Jeff Bridges, perhaps best known for playing “The Dude” in the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski,” recently announced on Twitter he had been diagnosed with lymphoma.

Lymphoma is a relatively rare cancer with fewer than 86,000 cases diagnosed each year, and less than 21,000 thousand deaths annually. It is also one of the easiest to treat when detected early and properly diagnosed.

The cancer affects the body’s germ-fighting lymphatic system. It starts when white blood cells, called lymphocytes, develop mutations and begin to multiply rapidly. The cells start affecting the lymphatic tissue that is in your neck, throat, chest, groin, armpits, digestive system, and bones.

There are two main types:

The Difference

the difference

Hodgkin lymphoma, or Hodgkin Disease, is the rarer of the two. Only half of 1 percent of new cancer diagnoses each year are Hodgkin lymphoma. It makes up only 0.2 percent of cancer deaths. That’s because it is one of the easiest cancers to diagnose and treat. Those diagnosed have a five-year survival rate of more than 87 percent.

Hodgkin lymphoma starts when a white blood cell mutates and begins to create more mutated white blood cells. Those cells continue to spread and affect other parts of the body.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) represents 4.3% of new cancer cases each year and 3.3 percent of annual cancer deaths. There are different kinds of NHL that start in cells in specific parts of the body.

NHL starts in the lymph nodes or lymphatic tissue. You’ve probably felt your lymph nodes beneath your jaw swell when you’re fighting an infection. Those nodes are part of the lymphatic system and can become cancerous.

Risk Factors

checking lymphoma

Doctors aren’t sure what causes lymphoma. The cancer can affect anyone regardless of age or gender.

There are some common factors among patients:

  • Age. Some lymphomas affect young adults while others affect people over 55.
  • Gender. Men develop lymphoma slightly more often than women.
  • Immune system. People with compromised immune systems, due to disease like AIDS or hepatitis C, or because of medications, are more susceptible to lymphoma.
  • Infections. Lymphoma has been associated with infections including Epstein-Barr and Helicobacter pylori infection.
  • Family. While uncommon, there have been reports of people developing Hodgkin lymphoma when a parent or sibling has had it.
  • Lifestyle. While most of the causes are beyond a person’s control, it’s good to eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight.

Symptoms

woman hand self checking thyroid gland on her neck

The following are common symptoms of lymphoma.

They include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, groin, or armpits
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Itchy skin

You should see a doctor if they are persistent or become worrisome.

Diagnosis

It is important to determine which type of lymphoma you have as there are several different types. With a proper diagnosis your doctor can develop the most effective treatment plan.

Tests include:

  • Physical exam. The doctor will feel for swollen lymph nodes or a swollen spleen or liver.
  • Testing a lymph node. Doctors sometimes will remove part or all of a lymph node to perform a test to determine if there is lymphoma and what type.
  • Testing bone marrow. Doctors may check for lymphoma cells in a sample of marrow removed from the hip.
  • Blood test. The number of cells in a blood sample can provide a clue for diagnosis.
  • Imaging tests. CT scans, MRIs, and other imaging tests can help doctors find lymphoma in other parts of the body.

Treatment

burkitt's lymphoma cells, illustration-lymphoma blog

There are a variety of treatment options for lymphoma. Some are unique to the type of lymphoma and some are similar regardless of type. The general approach is to kill as many of the diseased cells as possible.

Possible options include:

  • Chemotherapy which chemically kills all cells including the cancerous cells
  • Immunotherapy where white blood cells or bone marrow is transplanted to fight the cancer cells
  • Targeted drugs to go after the cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy that gives focused doses to the affected areas
  • High-dose chemotherapy for hard-to-kill cells coupled with stem cell transplants to rebuild bone marrow

We’re Here for You

Early detection improves outcomes with every form of cancer. AltaMed physicians are here to provide regular preventive screenings and checkups to monitor your health and stay alert to any issues. You can find a doctor at the following link or make an appointment by calling (888) 499-9303.

Sign Up for COVID-19 Updates

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

Helping Participants Return to AltaMed PACE Safely

January 27, 2021

As with all of our facilities, we are making great efforts to protect our AltaMed PACE participants and staff. We know PACE is an important resource for seniors with complex health needs, and their caregivers. Learn more about how we’re continuing to serve you during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What We’re Doing?

Section 1

We are following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

These include:

  • Participants and staff wearing protective equipment
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-contact areas
  • Reserving PACE day care centers for members who have acute needs or do not have a safe home alternative
  • Continuing to see those who need routine care for chronic conditions or urgent issues at our PACE medical sites. If you think you need medical attention, please contact your primary care provider, who may recommend either an office visit or a telehealth appointment.

How PACE Participants and Their Families Can Protect Their Household

Section 2

Everyone at your home should avoid seeing family and friends who do not live with you. This will help protect our PACE participants and your loved ones by reducing the possibility of bringing the coronavirus into your home.

  • Wash your hands often and clean surfaces that are touched often, like door handles and faucets.
  • When you have to meet with people outside your household, maintain a distance of at least six feet. Meet outside or in a space with good ventilation.
  • If any of your household members have been to large gatherings (which is strongly discouraged), or have been around a lot of different people, they should isolate themselves to avoid the PACE participant while inside the home. Avoid sleeping in the same room, stay away from family members who feel sick or have been around someone sick, and don’t hug, kiss, or share food or drinks.
  • Wear a mask to reduce your risk of catching a coronavirus infection and spreading it to others. Anytime you leave home and are around others, wear a mask. Even if you are inside your home with people who live with you, if they have been at any social gatherings or haven’t used a mask while outside the home, you should all wear masks.
  • Stay flexible. Please remember that this is an evolving situation and things change rapidly. We promise to communicate regularly.

We thank PACE participants and their families for their patience. The actions we all take now can help us protect each other. And hopefully, before too long, we can safely welcome you back to our PACE centers with open arms and open hearts!

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

AltaMed PACE is enrolling participants to provide all-inclusive care for our seniors 55 years and older during COVID-19.

To learn more about how AltaMed PACE can help, please call (855) 252-7223 or visit us at PACE website link.

6 Naturally Effective Ways to Boost Your Immune System

June 30, 2020

Lately, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about your immune system, and how important it is to boost it to help you stay healthy.

The truth is, there’s no single food or supplement that can enhance your immune system. And, unfortunately, you can’t boost your immune system against COVID-19 or a particular disease. But you can eat well and live a healthy lifestyle to lessen your chances of getting sick. You could also end up leaner, stronger, happier, and healthier…so what are you waiting for?

1. Start with a Healthy Diet

Healthy womanYour body needs vitamins to function properly, and the best way to get your vitamins is by eating a wide variety of healthy foods. Here are a few of the vitamins and nutrients that can protect you, and where to find them.

Vitamin C is the one you usually think of when you start sniffling or worry that a cold is coming. Even though there is no evidence that the vitamin will prevent you from catching a cold, those who regularly get enough Vitamin C may not get sick for as long or have as severe of a cold. Get your C from delicious sources, such as:

  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers

Zinc is another nutrient thought to fight the common cold and protect you from the flu. Zinc is needed for immune cell development; if you don’t get enough, you could be at higher risk for pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Some studies have shown that taking zinc at the beginning of an illness may help you get over it faster. You can get a healthy amount of zinc in:

  • Normal servings of lean beef, seafood, low-fat dairy, eggs, and chicken
  • Vegetarian/vegan sources such as nuts, seeds, tofu, beans, and lentils

Vitamin D is essential for helping your body fight off disease and infection. If you’re deficient (and many of us are), this could increase your risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including flu and allergic asthma. Because Vitamin D fights inflammation, it may help those who suffer arthritis or autoimmune diseases like lupus, psoriasis, or irritable bowel disease. Get your Vitamin D in:

  • Fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, and anchovies (eaten in moderation)
  • Eggs, especially the yolk (eat no more than one a day)
  • Fortified staples such as milk, cereal, orange juice, and bread
  • Sunshine! No, you don’t eat it, but spending a few minutes in the noon-time sun, a few times a week, can help your body produce Vitamin D. Make sure to wear SPF and protect your eyes.

Spices have been used as medicine and complementary care for centuries, and many have been put to the test by modern science. These are a few of the delicious spices that, when used in moderate amounts, can help protect your cells from damage.

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon

2. Get Moving

CyclistRegular exercise, especially cardio, boosts the cells in your immune system and reduces inflammation, so your body can use its defenses to fight infection. Other great benefits of exercise include lowering your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and helping keep your brain sharp and lessens the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

3. Sleep Well

Woman sleepingNot getting enough sleep can make you sick, and sleep deprivation is also linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, and depression. Sleep is your body’s time to repair itself, and that includes producing T-cells that help fight off infections. To help your body and your mind perform their best, aim for 7 or 8 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep.

4. Don’t Worry

Relaxing womanStress is bad for both your body and your mind. Too much stress, for too long, suppresses our immunity and floods our body with cortisol, which can attack our white blood cells and leave us less able to fight off a host of diseases, including cancer. Regular self-care, including exercise, can help you better cope with stress.

5. Be Happy

Dad and son basketball

We know that stress and loneliness can make us sicker. Even though the evidence that happiness strengthens our immunity isn’t rock-solid, being happy is linked to healthy habits, like eating more fruits and increased physical activity. Happiness is also linked to lower risk of heart disease, and it has a positive impact on our perception of pain.

6. Get Your Vaccines

Vaccine armWe saved the best for last: getting routine vaccinations is the safest and most effective way to protect against many serious diseases, including the flu, cervical cancer, and more. Even though many vaccines have existed for decades, they are constantly tested for safety and effectiveness, and adjusted so they are of the most benefit to the most people. Vaccines aren’t just for kids! Contact us to learn about age-appropriate vaccines.

Here for You

Most of these immunity boosters are appropriate for all ages and types of people, but if you’d like to get help with a specific issue, contact your doctor. We’re here to help you grow healthy, no matter your needs.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.