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Cancer That Killed Fred Thompson Claims 20,000 US Lives Each Year

Cancer That Killed Fred Thompson Claims 20,000 US Lives Each Year
(Copyright AP)

By    |   Monday, 02 November 2015 11:24 AM

Former Sen. Fred Thompson, known for his careers in government service, as well as Hollywood, died Sunday of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a disease that affects more people as they get older, but had been in remission.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the most common form of lymphoma, which represents a large, diverse group of diseases.  Lymphatic cancer begins in cells in the lymphatic system, which is the clear liquid that circulates through the blood, and is part of the immune system.

Each year, about 70,000 people, slightly more of them men, are diagnosed with the disease, which causes about 19,790 deaths annually.  The cause of NHL is not known and, although it can occur in anyone, including children, growing older heightens the risk. About half of all patients are over the age of 66 when diagnosed.

Although its cause is not known, factors that affect the immune system can raise the risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These include bacterial infections, such as the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which also causes stomach ulcers. Viruses such as the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis, is associated with some types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as hepatitis C.

Standing well over six-feet tall, with a booming voice, Thompson, 73, parlayed his fame on television, where he had a recurring role on NBC’s three "Law & Order" series, into a career in politics.  But in addition to acting and politics, he was also a vital, charismatic figure that played many other roles as well, including that of a lobbyist, columnist, radio host and, most recently, TV spokesperson.

He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004 but only revealed his diagnosis three years later, when he was in the midst of a Republican bid for the U.S. Presidency. His doctor said then that he had the slowest growing form of the disease, and was expected to live a normal lifespan.

But the doctor also warned at the time that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is not curable, and, he added, “Nobody’s saying it won’t come back,” according to news reports at the time.

Thompson was diagnosed with the disease when he sought treatment for a 3.5 centimeter by 4 centimeter (roughly one inch by 1½ inch) lump under his left jaw and the biopsy came back positive.

He was initially treated with radiation to his neck, "merely because it was bothersome to him to have a lump there,” Thompson’s doctor said.
 
Recently it was discovered that a bacterium that causes Q fever, an infectious disease that humans can acquire from animals, raises the risk of NHL.  This type of ailment is rare, though, and more commonly affects those in high-risk professions, such as veterinarians and farmers, according to the study, which was published last month in the journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a blood cancer, so instead of surgery, the general treatment is usually a combination of chemotherapy and immunological treatments involving monoclonal antibodies (a type of biological treatment).

The treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma depends on whether the type is indolent (slow growing), aggressive (fast growing), and where exactly it falls along this scale.    

If the disease is severe and aggressive, a bone marrow transplant may be recommended to enable the patient to withstand high doses of chemotherapy, although this is usually recommended in hopes of a cure for younger patients, as it carries its own set of risks.

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Cancer
Each year, 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which took Sen. Fred Thompson's life. It causes about 19,790 deaths annually. The cause of NHL is not known but tends to strike older Americans.
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2015-24-02
Monday, 02 November 2015 11:24 AM
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