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HEALTH MATTERS: To cancer survivors, Erica Campbell is a source of inspiration

What do Kansas City Chiefs football player Eric Berry, U.S. professional tennis player Victoria Duval and Erica Campbell have in common? All have been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and are now cancer free.

Every five minutes someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with lymphoma. Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer. The two main forms of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma is marked by the presence of an abnormal lymphocyte. The cause is not known but there are several risk factors associated with the disease. More than 80 percent of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma survive for five years and many are cured. Actor Mr. T was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. He presently is in remission.

According to the Cancer Centers of America, Hodgkin lymphoma’s general risk factors are: men are more likely than women to develop the disease; young adults (20 to 30 years old) and older adults (over 55 years old) are at an increased risk; those affected by the Epstein-Barr virus known for causing mononucleosis in young adults; and a compromised immune system; a family history and lifestyle.

Lymphoma accounts for nearly one in five cancer diagnoses among young people.

Campbell’s aunt was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma about a year prior to her own diagnosis. Her aunt, too, is a survivor.

“In November 2012, I underwent a series of tests to determine the cause of my persistent irritating cough, night sweats, poor health, and fatigue,” Campbell said. “I remembered at times I was so weak that I could not stand to shower and another time as I prepared to go out with friends, I vomited and got hot for no apparent reason.”

Since 2004, World Lymphoma Awareness Day is observed on Sept. 15. It was established by the Lymphoma Coalition, a nonprofit network organization of 49 lymphoma patient groups around the world to raise public awareness of this form of cancer and allow people to recognize the first signs and symptoms of lymphoma.

To commemorate National Blood Cancer Awareness Month and World Lymphoma Awareness Day, more than 100 buildings and landmarks around the world will be lit red in partnership with the Lymphoma Research Foundation, including Los Angeles International Airport and U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles.

“About 80,000 new cases of lymphomas are diagnosed in the U.S. each year,” said Dr. Gabriel H. Jung, at Queens Medical Associates, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in New York. “Nearly, 21,000 deaths are attributed to lymphoma in the U.S.,” “About 1 million persons in the U.S. are either undergoing treatment for lymphoma or living in remission.”

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer that develops in the lymphatic system from cells called lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infections. There are more than 90 subtypes of lymphoma and 30 distinct types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the United States, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the seventh most common cancer in adults.

“Lymphomas are among the most diverse as well as most curable of all human malignancies,” Jung said. “Depending on the subtypes and stage of lymphomas as well as other factors such as co-morbidities (other complicating health conditions), overall cure rate can differ but approximately 80 percent of patients can achieve remission.”

About 1,070 deaths occurred from lymphoma in 2016 and it affects more males than females.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, thymus and digestive tract. The human body has more than 500 lymph nodes connected through a network of lymph vessels with clusters found in the neck, armpits, groin, abdomen, pelvis and chest.

The most common symptom for lymphoma is an enlarged lymph node, which typically looks like a lump in the neck, under the arm or in the groin area. Often times an enlarged lymph node may just be a result of an infection and will eventually go away.

“Some lymphoma patients experience what are called B symptoms which include fever, night sweats and unexpected weigh loss,” said Dr. Crystal Moore, a staff pathologist at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Additional symptoms include itchy skin, a tired feeling and loss of appetite.

“Sometimes lymphoma affects the lymph nodes inside the chest, causing coughing and trouble breathing, since the swollen lymph nodes are pressing on the windpipe.”

After two biopsies and two CAT scans, at 27, Campbell was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013.

“The disease was in my abdomen, chest, and armpits,” Campbell said. “I suffered through MERSA, a blood clot in my right arm, shingles, Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma and survived.”

“Chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Moore said. “The FDA recently approved the first-ever gene therapy treatment that will be offered in the U.S. as a treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and young adults. It’s important to remember that once a lymphoma diagnosis is made after a pathologist reviews your biopsy, your doctor will choose a treatment plan that works best for you.”

The five-year survival rate for both stage I and II Hodgkin lymphoma is 90 percent, stage III is 80 percent and stage IV is 65 percent, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“My life changed forever,” Campbell said. “I had no idea what lymph nodes were and or had heard about this disease. I was nervous, scared and angry but made a decision to bring hope and inspiration to people battling this disease and their friends and families.

Since 2014, Camobell has served as an ambassador with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Lymphoma Research Foundation. She shares her story through her blog and lives by her motto, “Never give up on your fight and continue to survive with your beautiful smile, Dzire2Survive.”

Resources:

Lymphoma Research Foundation – www.lymphoma.org

The T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma Foundation – www.tcllfoundation.org

The Lymphoma Coalition – www.lymphomacoalition.org

Crystal Moore, MD, PhD, FCAP – www.DrCrystalMoore.com

Erica Campbell – www.ericasurvived.com

Cancer Treatment Centers of America – www.cancercenter.com

Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to healthmatters@wavepublication.com and look for her column in The Wave.

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