Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: What cancer Jane Fonda announced she had?
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Two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda announced on Instagram on Friday that she had been diagnosed with a treatable form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
« So my dear friends, I have something personal that I want to share, » the 84-year-old wrote.
« I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and started chemotherapy treatments, » Fonda also said.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body grow out of control, according to the American Cancer Society. Almost any cell in the human body can become cancerous and spread to other parts of the body, the same source also explained.
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But what exactly is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that starts in the immune system.
The immune system helps fight infection, but sometimes cancer can break out in white blood cells called lymphocytes and cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the society added.
It’s a general term that’s used for many types of lymphoma that occur most often in adults, according to the association.
According to National Cancer Institute data from 2017 to 2019, approximately 2% of men and women will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at some point in their lives.
The institute estimates that 763,401 people were living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the United States in 2019.
Where does lymphoma start?
« Lymphomas can start anywhere in the body where lymphatic tissue is found, » according to the American Cancer Society website.
These include the lymph nodes, which are small bean-shaped structures connected by a network of lymphatic vessels.
They are located throughout the body, such as inside the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. Lymphatic tissue is also found in the spleen, bone marrow, thymus, tonsils, and digestive tract.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include fever, night sweats and weight loss as well as swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Patients may experience persistent fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
What are the different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
« The lymphatic system is made up primarily of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection, » according to the American Cancer Society’s website.
There are two types of lymphocytes: B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes.
B cells help the body fight germs by creating antibodies, which in turn help the body neutralize them.
« There are several types of T cells. Some T cells destroy germs or abnormal cells in the body, » according to the American Cancer Society.
Some 763,401 people were living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the United States in 2019, according to National Cancer Institute estimates.
“Other T cells help stimulate or slow down the activity of other immune system cells.”
Although lymphoma can start in either type of cell line, B-cell lymphomas are the most common.
What causes NHL?
Lymphocytes generally go through a life cycle in which old lymphocytes die and then the body replaces them.
« In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, your lymphocytes don’t die and your body creates new ones, » according to the Mayo Clinic website.
« This overproduction of lymphocytes crams into your lymph nodes, causing them to swell. »
Some lymphomas are more aggressive
Lymphomas can also be classified by how quickly they grow and spread to other parts of the body.
Some are known as ‘indolent’, which means they grow and spread slowly, so they may not need treatment when first diagnosed.
« The most common type of indolent lymphoma in the United States is follicular lymphoma, » according to the American Cancer Society.
Fonda posted on Instagram that she feels lucky because she has « very treatable cancer » with an 80% survival rate.
However, aggressive lymphomas grow and spread quickly, so treatment is often started immediately.
« The most common type of aggressive lymphoma in the United States is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, » according to the American Cancer Society. « Regardless of how quickly they grow, all non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas can spread to other parts of the lymphatic system if left untreated. »
Eventually, they can also spread to other parts of the body.
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The overall five-year relative survival rate for NHL is 73.8%, according to 2012 to 2018 data from the National Cancer Institute.
Fonda posted on Instagram that she feels lucky because she has « very treatable cancer » with an 80% survival rate, although she didn’t specify the exact type she has.
What are the risk factors?
Some people are at higher risk of developing NHL, including those taking drugs to suppress the immune system and patients with certain viral infections, such as HIV or the virus that can cause mononucleosis known as HIV virus. Epstein-Barr, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Cancer is also associated with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers as well as certain chemicals used to kill insects and weeds, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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And people over 60 are at higher risk, although anyone can get cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Fonda says she will continue her environmental activism
« I’ve been on chemo for six months and coping with the treatments pretty well and believe me, I won’t let any of that interfere with my climate activism, » said Fonda, who is also an environmental advocate.
She was inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in 2019, she said, to become a climate change advocate, launching « Fire Drill Fridays » to raise awareness of environmental challenges, according to her website.
She was arrested multiple times that year after leading protests against the climate crisis in Washington, DC, according to The New York Times.
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Fonda posted on Instagram that she « will not allow cancer to stop me from doing everything I can, using every tool in my toolbox, and a big part of that includes continuing to build this Fire community. Drill Fridays and finding new ways to use our collective strength to make change. »