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Lymphoma: what Hogan is up against

Lymphoma.(Cancer.gov)

Lymphoma.
(Cancer.gov)

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday afternoon that he’s fighting an “aggressive” B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the body’s immune system.

But Hogan’s description of his symptoms and diagnosis is “very typical” and most people who face this type of cancer are cured, said Dr. Kevin Cullen, director of the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

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“Most people are cured with chemotherapy,” Cullen said. “I think the numbers for [Hogan] are quite good.”

About 72,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma every year and at five years after treatment, about 70 percent of patients remain free of the disease, he said.

“A relatively small number of people see recurrence,” Cullen said.

The 18-week chemotherapy regimen that Hogan said he would soon begin is also typical, Cullen said.

B-cells are lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. When a person has a lymphoma, those lymphocytes become malignant and can cause swelling of the lymph nodes, according to the American Cancer Society.

Hogan’s description of how he discovered the lymphoma — he felt a lump at his neck — is a common one. “Most people describe a swelling and usually have more than one,” he said.

It’s also not unusual for for the disease to progress to stage three — here the lymphoma is found both above and below the diaphragm — before being diagnosed, Cullen said.

Hogan told reporters Monday that his disease was at late stage three or early stage four.

At stage four, the lymphoma has spread outside of the lymph system into an organ that is not right next to an affected lymph node or has spread into the bone marrow, liver, brain or spinal cord or the lining of the lungs, according to the American Cancer Society.

The governor has “every reason to be optimistic about recovery” and showed courage with his announcement, Cullen said. “[Cancer] should be faced with optimism and hope and he showed that well.”

Hogan joked that he had a better chance of beating the cancer than he did of beating former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in the 2014 election.