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Mantle cell lymphoma or MCL refers to a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is a malignancy of the B cells. When examined under a microscope, the condition appears as a slowly growing, low grade tumor. However, it acts as a high grade lymphoma inside the body of a patient. Mantle cell lymphoma can affect any individual over the age of thirty years, but is more commonly observed in older adults. The incidence rate of this type of lymphoma is usually higher in individuals over the age of fifty years. Additionally, men are at greater vulnerability to developing the condition as compared to women. There are no special risk factors that are involved in the development of mantle cell lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer which affects the lymphatic system. There are tube-like structures that come from the lymphatic system and run across the body. These tubes can be compared to the veins and arteries, but carry a colorless fluid known as ‘lymph’. This liquid comprises of many white blood cells that aid in defending the body against infection. However, when some of these white blood cells become excessively active and experience abnormal divisions, then they turn into cancerous cells. Unlike the normal cells, they do not have the resting stage and pass from one cycle into another. This is experienced by the B cells, which are a kind of lymphocyte, eventually resulting in the formation of mantle cell lymphoma.

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Mantle cell lymphoma symptoms

  • The signs and symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma are similar to those elicited by Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, such as a single or more swelling noticed in the armpit, neck and groin region. These anomalies do not cause pain. The swelling is usually expansion of the lymph node. If they do not reduce in six weeks, then one must consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

The other accompanying symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma are referred to as B symptoms and include:

  • Increased nighttime sweating
  • Changes in body temperatures that disappear on their own and have no particular cause
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Loss in weight that is more than 1/10th of the total body weight
  • Occasionally, other organs of the body such as the bowel, bone marrow, stomach, spleen and liver may get affected. The spread of mantle cell lymphoma to the stomach and bowel may result in sickness and diarrhea

Grades and stages of mantle cell lymphoma

As per the rate of growth and spreading inside the body, mantle cell lymphoma is classified into two groups, as listed below:

  • High grade or fast growing lymphoma
  • Low-grade or slow-growing lymphoma

The grade of mantle cell lymphoma and the treatment methods are decided by doctors as per the form of the cells under a microscope. It may be noted that the abnormal cells of mantle cell lymphoma may appear like low grade lymphoma under a microscope, but behave like a rapidly developing aggressive cancer inside the body. Till the time the malignancy is diagnosed, the cancer may have travelled to other organs like bone marrow, lymph nodes, etc.

Causes of mantle cell lymphoma

The exact cause of mantle cell lymphoma is not known. It has no identifiable genetic reasons and is not communicable. It is considered as an abnormal break and consequent translocation in a gene that leads to earlier that normal division of cells, rendering them incapable of fighting infections. Also, the cells do not die as usual and hence collect in the lymphoid system, which include the spleen and the lymph nodes. Such accumulation of waste cells renders the system dysfunctional.

Exposure to certain toxins is considered as a potential cause of mantle cell lymphoma

Treatment of mantle cell lymphoma

The treatment for mantle cell lymphoma is similar to treatment for other types of Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is an aggressive malignancy which is usually diagnosed quite late. The lymphoma grows rapidly and after a remission period, tends to revert within no time.

The treatment for mantle cell lymphoma includes:

  • Chemotherapy, involving the intravenous administration of special cancer killing drugs
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy, wherein intense rays of radiation are directed at the cancer cells to destroy them
  • Steroid therapy
  • High dose treatment with stem cell support
  • Transplantation of a new immune system using stored stem cells, or those received from a matched donor.
  • Temsirolimus
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy

Mantle cell lymphoma patients survival rate

The survival rate of mantle cell lymphoma is believed to be somewhat better as compared to the survival rate of T cell lymphoma cancer. However, it may be noted that nearly seventy percent of the patients are diagnosed with the lymphoma when the cancer has reached stage IV. This leads to very poor life expectancy rates. Post diagnosis, the survival rate is set at around three to four years. A few affected individuals have survived for about six years.

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