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A B cell is a type of lymphocyte that produces antibodies to fight infections. These are the most prevalent lymphocytes in the bloodstream and are crucial to building a strong immune system. Not only do they fight infections, they also generate "memory" cells that can be reproduced in the case of a repeat attack.
B Cell Lymphoma occurs when B Cells mutate and become cancerous. Subsequently, as the cancerous B Cells clone themselves, the cancer proliferates.
B cell lymphomas comprise a few dozen individual cancers, that affect the b cells in the lymphatic system. However, the most common type is diffuse large b cell lymphoma (DLBCL), and researchers use the R-IPI for determining survival rates.
This type of lymphoma accounts for 80-90% of all Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas (NHL). The other major subset is T-Cell lymphoma.
Lymphomas are categorized according to how the B cells are affected. An in-depth list of lymphoma classifications is available for reference. Please select a link for a specific lymphoma or group of lymphomas.
B cell lymphomas usually have genetic origins, though they are also linked to environmental factors, immunodeficiency, viruses, and connective tissue disorders. To put it bluntly, there is no truthful answer to, "What causes B cell lymphoma?" The "causes" are not entirely understood, so it is more helpful to focus on risk factors. Please see "What causes lymphoma?" for more detailed information.
Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma are varied, but may include some or all of the following
These symptoms are also indicators of many other diseases, so your doctor will have to run specialized tests to make an accurate diagnosis.
The first step in any diagnosis is a physical exam. The doctor will likely search for any swollen nodes and examine your spleen and liver. They will also record a medical history.
If cancer is suspected, the doctor will usually order blood tests. He will do a complete blood count (CBC) to discover the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in your blood stream. Abnormal blood counts can be an indicator of lymphoma. The doctor will also check for other indicators, such as Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH); high levels of LDH can indicate lymphoma.
If blood tests point toward cancer, chest X-rays or cat scans may be performed to check for swollen lymph nodes and other symptoms that the doctor can’t see via physical exam.
The final step in diagnosis is a biopsy. The doctor will remove a small sample of lymph tissue, usually a portion of a lymph node or a whole lymph node, and send it to the lab for analysis. A biopsy will let the doctor know if you have cancer, what type it is, and it will help them stage the disease.
Staging is an important step in diagnosing cancer. Once the doctor knows the type of cancer, they will need to determine the extent of the cancer’s metastasis, or spread throughout the body. This affects the type of treatment a patient needs.
Grades of cancer are also used. The designated grades are "A" and "B".
Doctors may use one or more of these tests in the staging process:
These tests will identify the spread of the disease for accurate staging.
Treatment for B Cell Lymphoma differs based on the type of cancer and the staging. It also depends on how fast the cancer is growing and the patient’s age and medical history. A medical oncologist, hematologist, or radiation oncologist will treat the patient with the most aggressive and successful treatment that his or her body can handle.
Image: Blood smear from an adult male with a marked lymphocytosis. This morphology is characteristic of the majority of cases of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia