World Lymphoma Awareness Day 2023: Are people with rheumatoid arthritis at higher risk of getting lymphoma?
Having rheumatoid arthritis not only affects joints and bones but also increases risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes pain, inflammation and swelling in joints. If not treated or well controlled, the disease can cause permanent damage to the bones and joints. This is the reason people who have this disorder should regularly take medications and stay active to control their disease. Having rheumatoid arthritis not only affects joints and bones but also increases risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Arthritis can also increase your chances of having lymphoma, a type of blood cancer which affects lymphatic system which is part of the body's germ-fighting network. The lymphatic system has lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. (Also read: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis; how their symptoms differ)
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. While it's widely known for the pain and inflammation it causes in the joints, RA may also have more far-reaching effects on the body.
"One of the concerns that have emerged in recent years is the potential link between Rheumatoid Arthritis and an increased risk of developing Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer," says Dr Vijay Ramanan, M.D. (Med), DM (Clin, Haemat) Sr. Consultant Clinical Haematologist Ruby Hall Clinic.
"The link between Rheumatoid Arthritis & Lymphoma is complex. RA is an autoimmune disease. The immune system dysfunction in RA may contribute to an increased risk of lymphoma. Certain medications used to treat RA, such as immunosuppressants like methotrexate and some biologic drugs, can also potentially increase vulnerability to lymphoma," adds Dr Ramanan.
How rheumatoid arthritis can increase risk of lymphoma
Rheumatoid arthritis can increase your risk of developing lymphoma, though the risk remains relatively low in absolute terms.
"Chronic inflammation and immune system abnormalities associated with RA may play a role in this increased risk. Risk factors for Lymphoma in individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis include the severity and duration of RA, the presence of other autoimmune diseases, and the use of immunosuppressive medications. Older age and certain genetic factors may also contribute," says Dr Ramanan.
For individuals living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, it is crucial to be proactive in managing their health and reducing the risk of lymphoma.
Here are some important steps to consider as suggested by Dr Ramanan:
Regular medical check-ups
Frequent check-ups with healthcare professionals, particularly rheumatologists, can help monitor the progression of RA and assess any potential signs of lymphoma.
Pay attention to any unusual symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, or persistent fatigue, and promptly report them to your healthcare team.
Discuss RA treatment options with your rheumatologist, weighing the benefits and risks of immunosuppressive medications carefully. Personalized treatment plans can help manage RA while minimizing Lymphoma risk.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management, which can positively impact both RA and overall health.
Keep abreast of the latest research and medical advancements related to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lymphoma to make informed decisions about your healthcare.
"The link between Rheumatoid arthritis and lymphoma is a complex one, influenced by factors such as the severity and duration of RA, the presence of other autoimmune diseases, and the use of immunosuppressive medications. While the risk of Lymphoma remains relatively low, individuals with RA should work closely with their healthcare team to manage their condition effectively and reduce their lymphoma risk. Regular check-ups, vigilant monitoring, and informed treatment choices are essential in navigating this challenging connection and maintaining overall well-being," says Dr Ramanan.