Fighting Lymphoma Like a Champion
- Jason Wynyard, a wood chopping superstar from New Zealand, is battling Stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Though it came as an “extreme shock,” he’s facing this challenge with a “champion attitude.”
- Burkitt Lymphoma is rare and a fast-growing B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that usually starts in the abdomen or spleen, where it forms a large tumor. It can spread rapidly to the brain and spinal fluid.
- All non-Hodgkin lymphomas begin in white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which are part of your body’s immune system.
- From there, doctors separate these cancers into types depending on the specific kind of lymphocytes they grow from: B cells or T cells.
The shocking cancer diagnosis of the nine-time timbersports world champion, who is the father of 25-year-old New Zealand professional basketball player Tai Wynyard, was revealed this week.Read More
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Per the announcement, it’s understood that Wynyard has already started “intense” chemotherapy treatment and “plans to chop this big wood in front of him with the same Champion attitude and strength as he has attacked every title he has ever won and fight this with everything that he has.”
Immediate family will only be allowed to visit Wynward on a limited basis to prevent any possible infections from developing.
“The best way you can show your love and support to Jason at this time is to send messages or videos to him through social media which he will be able to read and find strength from as he goes through this next journey,” the statement added. “We will endeavor to keep everyone updated of Jason’s progress as he continues this fight.”
Learning About Burkitt’s Lymphoma
Burkitt Lymphoma is rare, making up 1% to 2% of all adult lymphomas cases and accounting for up to 40% of pediatric lymphoma cases across the U.S. and Western Europe, WebMD explains.
It is a fast-growing B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that usually starts in the abdomen or spleen, where it forms a large tumor. It can spread rapidly to the brain and spinal fluid.
It is unknown what causes Burkitt lymphoma, however, according to the Cleveland Clinic, “Researchers investigating Burkitt lymphoma cells link the condition to changes in the MYC gene and other genes they’ve found in the cancer cells. The MYC gene controls some aspects of cell growth. Researchers are still investigating what causes the genetic changes.”
“In some cases, people in the United States who have Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) also have Burkitt lymphoma. But not everyone who has that virus develops Burkitt lymphoma,” the clinic adds.
The disease is diagnosed through lymph node or bone marrow biopsies, and depending on what is found, could followed by computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, cerebrospinal fluid cytology, and a lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) test.
Sneaky Lymphoma Symptoms Often Lead to a Late Diagnosis
Burkitt lymphoma is usually treated quickly with a mixture of strong chemotherapy drugs.
Symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma
Symptoms of this Burkitt lymphoma can vary in adults and children, however, symptoms normally develop suddenly in both children and adults and worse quickly.
Tumors associated with Burkitt lymphoma can double in size in just hours and symptoms often are likened to common illnesses.
The Cleveland Clinic says children with Burkitt lymphoma may experience the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swollen lymph nodes
Symptoms often seen in adults include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unintended weight loss
- Night sweats
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: It’s More Than Just One Type
When people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, they’re not talking about one type of cancer, but many. “Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a big category,” Dr. Julie Vose, chief of hematology/oncology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
All non-Hodgkin lymphomas begin in white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which are part of your body’s immune system. From there, doctors separate these cancers into types depending on the specific kind of lymphocytes they grow from: B cells or T cells.
Knowing whether you have a B-cell or a T-cell lymphoma is necessary as it will determine what kind of treatment is needed.
B-Cell Lymphomas Vs. T-Cell Lymphomas
B cells make proteins called antibodies that protect your body against bacteria, viruses, and other germs. Germs have a protein called an antigen on their surface, to which the antibody attaches. That signals your immune system to attack the invading organism.
If you live in the United States and are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there’s a good chance it’s the B-cell variety. About 85% of all lymphomas diagnosed in North America are B-cell lymphomas. And in the United States, these cancers affect white people more often than African Americans or Asian people.
Other types of B-cell lymphomas are Follicular lymphoma, Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), Mantle cell lymphoma, Marginal zone lymphomas, and Burkitt lymphoma.
T-cell lymphomas are more common in other parts of the world, such as Asia. That may have to do with causes that are unique to those regions, Dr. Vose says.
Do You Know Your B Cells From Your T Cells?
As for the T-cell lymphomas, the other category of non-Hodgkin lymphomas, these types of lymphomas are far less common than B-cell cancers. T cells either destroy germs themselves or increase the activity of other immune cells.
T-cell lymphomas, which are pretty rare and come in different types, affect only approximately 15% of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia affects mostly teens and young adults. This type of lymphoma grows quickly but is very curable.
Peripheral T-cell lymphomas, the type Neill has been diagnosed with, are a group of cancers that develop in mature T cells. Depending on the type, they can affect a variety of organs, including the skin, lungs, and intestines. Some of these cancers grow faster than others.
“B cells and T cells are both types of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of your immune system,” Dr. Elise Chong, medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, previously told SurvivorNet. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infections.
Age, Race, and Exposures Might All Factor Into Lymphoma Risk
Deciphering which lymphoma type you have, which your doctor will figure out through a biopsy, will ensure that you get the right treatment. Chemotherapy may be included as a treatment for both B-cell and T-cell lymphomas, however, other treatments are more specific to the cell type. For instance, the immunotherapy drug rituximab (Rituxan) only works against the CD20 antigen, which is on the surface of some B cells.
Prior to starting treatment, make sure you understand what kind of lymphoma you have, and what therapies are likely to be most effective against it.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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