Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in immune system cells called lymphocytes. Like other cancers, lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes are in a state of uncontrolled cell growth and multiplication.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells that move throughout the body in a fluid called lymph. They are transported by a network of vessels that make up the lymphatic system, part of the immune system. The lymphatic system – whose job it is to fight infections or anything else that threatens the body – is also comprised of lymph nodes that exist throughout the body to filter the lymph that flows through them. The lymph nodes swell and tenderize when a large number of microbial organisms collect inside of them, indicating local infection.
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There are two primary types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. Both are designed to recognize and destroy infections and abnormal cells. B cells produce proteins that travel throughout the body, attaching themselves to infectious organisms and abnormal cells and alerting the immune system that the pathogen needs to be destroyed. T cells actually kill the pathogens directly and serve a function in regulating the immune system from over- or under-activity.
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