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Mantle cell lymphoma - an indolent or an aggressive disease?
Mantle cell lymphoma, also known as simply MCL, is one of the rarest occurring types of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. The non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a group of blood cancers that include any kind of lymphoma except Hodgkin's lymphomas. Lymphoma is defined as a cancer in the white blood cells of the immune system. The malignant cells are often present in the lymph nodes, and they appear as an enlargement. Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare disease that comprises about 6% of all non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. It is estimated that currently only 15.000 patients in the United States suffer from mantle cell lymphoma.

Lymphomas

Human body is covered with small lymph nodes. These nodes serve as body’s filters for everything that is harmful: bacteria, viruses, damaged cells and cancer cells. As the lymph fluid flows through the body, it picks up and carries away this waste. Lymph contains white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are critical for body’s defense against infections and diseases. Most of these cells originate from bone marrow: B-cells completely develop in the bone marrow, while T-cells go to the thymus gland to mature before being released into the rest of the body. In lymphoma, these cells grow in an uncontrolled way, and the lymphatic system enlarges before it stops working properly. Mantle cell lymphoma is a cancer of the B-cells that usually starts at any age from the late 30s to old age. 

Symptoms and causes of mantle cell lymphoma

In most of the cases, patients will have symptoms of fever, heavy night sweats and unexplained weight loss. The lymph nodes (in the underarms, groin, neck, chest and abdomen) and the spleen will typically become swollen. The patients typically notice a “bump” on the neck or in the armpits or groin. If the lymphoma affects the bowel or stomach, it can cause symptoms such as diarrhea or sickness. Causes of mantle cell lymphoma are yet unknown. In most of the cases, doctors suspect exposure to toxins.

Prognosis and treatment

The 5-year survival rate for mantle cell lymphoma is generally 50%, for advanced stage, to 70%, for limited-stage mantle cell lymphoma. There is no absolutely successful treatment for this disease. It seems like most of the patients shortly benefit from chemotherapy, but their condition typically progresses after this treatment. The relapse episodes are usually more difficult and there is no way, at the present, to treat relapse. Commonly used treatments include chemotherapy, immune based therapy, radio immunotherapy and new biologic agents.

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