Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) is a rare type of cancer that usually develops in the system of the body where white blood cells are produced and circulated, known as the lymphatic system. White blood cells travel through the body to fight disease, destroy bacteria, and produce antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria. AITLs occur when a mutation in DNA causes the type of white blood cells called "T-cells" to grow out of control, which can form a lump or a tumor. The most common locations where AITL develops are the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. Some of these cancerous cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and grow there.
AITL most commonly occurs in the elderly population, though it can appear in all age groups. The most common symptom of AITL is the swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes near the neck, mouth, or cheeks (lymphadenopathy), which may or may not be painful. Depending on the sizes of these growths, one may experience difficulty swallowing as well. Other common symptoms may include the enlargement of the liver or spleen (hepatomegaly and splenomegaly, respectively), fevers, night sweats, weight loss, and the development of autoimmune diseases (where the body mistakenly produces antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues rather than bacteria and viruses). Diagnoses are made usually with a combination of a physical exam, imaging studies, and other laboratory studies.
Treatment for AITL depends on many factors such as how large the cancer is and if it has spread to other areas of the body. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with AITL, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also available for more resources and information.