When Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges announced this week that he has lymphoma, his multitude of fans were understandably shocked. “Cancer” doesn’t jibe with the actor they affectionately call “The Dude.”
But Bridges’ tweet confirmed the news and treatment has begun for the blood cancer, which attacks the lymphatic system, your body’s army of germ fighters.
Premier Health Now spoke with hematologist/oncologist Satheesh Kathula, MD, to learn more about lymphoma and what the diagnosis may mean for Bridges.
Dr. Kathula explains that lymphoma is not just one disease. It’s a group of diseases that starts in the cells of your lymphatic system. The main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin, Dr. Kathula explains. Both may produce swollen lymph nodes in your neck, arm pits, and groin. Non-Hodgkin is also sometimes found in the brain, the skin, and other areas throughout the body.
“All lymphomas are not created equal,” says Dr. Kathula. “Your treatment and recovery depend largely on the type that you have, and how advanced it is. Because Jeff Bridges didn’t reveal that information, we can’t predict how he’ll fare.”
In addition to swollen lymph nodes, symptoms of most lymphomas include fever, night sweats, fatigue, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss. “But you may not have any symptoms at all,” says Dr. Kathula. “We might find it during a routine physical or notice it on a CT scan.”
Your likelihood of getting lymphoma increases as you age. Bridges is 70. “You’re more prone to get any cancer as you age, because your cells start to degenerate,” Dr. Kathula adds. Smoking and exposure to chemicals and radiation also increase your chances.