Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in lymphocytes, which are cells that circulate in the lymphatic system. When this cancer affects the tonsils that are part of the lymphatic system, then it is termed as tonsil lymphoma.
As per the US National Institutes of Health, lymphomas make up for about five percent of all cases of cancer in the United States. Traditionally, lymphoma is classified as Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that used to include all the other types. Modern classifications of lymphoma are much more complex and sophisticated.
The lymphatic system is part of the body's immune system and hence individuals with weakened immune system as a result of HIV infection or from certain medication are seen to have a higher incidence of lymphoma.
Cancer of the tonsil accounts for nearly 0.6% of malignant cancers in the United States every year. It is generally difficult to diagnose this disease as the symptoms are quite delayed in their onset. Lymphoma is the second most common type of tonsil malignancy and is usually manifested as a submucosal mass in an asymmetrically enlarged tonsil. Patients are usually seen with a large mass in the oropharynx, and a swollen neck mass and complain of pain and weight loss. Cigarette smoking and heavy drinking are considered the common risk factors for the disease.
Lymphoma that is limited to the tonsil is treated with radiation, whereas if the disease is widespread then it requires chemotherapy. In certain stages of lymphoma, it is advisable to have surgery for removal of the malignancy followed by chemotherapy.
It is imperative that routine follow-up care of patients with tonsil cancer is done, as the risk of developing a second primary tumor is highest in this group. Studies have shown that patients suffering from tonsil cancer have a high 30% risk of developing it a second time.