Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)
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- What is angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)?
- Symptoms of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)
- Causes of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)
- Diagnosis of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)
- The stages and grades of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)
- Treatment for angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)
- After angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma treatment (AITL)
- About our information
- How we can help
Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. AITL develops when T-cells become abnormal (cancerous). T-cells are white blood cells that normally help fight infection. They are sometimes called T-lymphocytes.
The abnormal T-cells (lymphoma cells) usually build up in the lymph nodes, but they can affect other parts of the body.
AITL mainly affects adults. It is usually affects older people, usually around the age of 70.
It is fast-growing, and treatment is often started soon after diagnosis.
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Symptoms of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) often include:
- feeling generally unwell
- having a rash or itchy skin
- having swellings in the neck, armpit or groin - these are caused by lymphoma cells building up in the lymph nodes.
Some people also have symptoms that doctors call B symptoms. These can include:
- drenching night sweats which require a change of nightwear and bed covers
- high temperatures (fevers) with no obvious cause
- unexplained weight loss.
Knowing if you have any B symptoms will help your doctor to stage the lymphoma and plan your treatment.
Sometimes AITL spreads to other areas of the body, such as the lungs or tummy area (abdomen).
Depending on where the lymphoma spreads to, this can cause symptoms such as:
- shortness of breath
- a swollen tummy.
General symptoms of AITL may include loss of appetite and tiredness.
We have more information about the signs and symptoms of lymphoma.
The causes of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) are mostly unknown.
Like other cancers AITL, is not infectious. It cannot be passed on to other people.
We have more information about causes and risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) often causes symptoms that are like other conditions. This sometimes makes diagnosis difficult.
Biopsy for lymphoma
The most common test for diagnosing lymphoma is a biopsy. A doctor will take a sample of tissue from the affected area. The most common place to take a biopsy from is an enlarged lymph node. This is called a lymph node biopsy. You may have all or a part of the lymph node removed. The tissue will be sent to a laboratory for testing. You may also have biopsies taken from other areas of your body.
You can find out more about further tests you may have in our information about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Waiting for test results can be difficult. You may find it helpful to talk to your family, friends or specialist nurse.
Your test results will help your doctors find out how many areas of your body are affected by lymphoma and where these areas are. This is called staging.
Lymphomas are also grouped as either low-grade or high-grade. Low-grade lymphomas are usually slow growing. High-grade lymphomas usually grow more quickly. Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) is a high-grade lymphoma and normally develops quickly.
Knowing the stage and grade of the lymphoma helps your doctor plan the right treatment for you.
We have more information about the stages and grades of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Your doctor, cancer specialist or nurse will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions.
Treatment depends on the stage of the lymphoma, and whether you have symptoms that are causing problems. The aim of treatment is to control the lymphoma for as long as possible. This is called remission.
You may have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.
The most common treatments are:
Stem cell transplants
Stem cell transplants are sometimes used to help control the lymphoma or if it has come back after treatment. Stem cell transplants are intensive treatments, so it is not suitable for everyone. You may have a transplant using:
Treatments may make all signs of the AITL disappear (called remission). But there is a risk AITL will come back. This is called recurrence or relapse. If this happens, further treatment can usually be given to manage AITL. We have more information about treating lymphoma that has come back.
You will have regular follow-up appointments after your treatment. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you may have at these appointments. Your doctor will want to know how you are feeling, and to check you are recovering from any side effects of treatment.
Sometimes side effects may continue or develop months or years after treatment. These are called late effects. We have more information about long-term and late effects of treatment for lymphoma.
Sex life and fertility
Cancer and its treatment can sometimes affect your sex life. There ways to improve your sexual well-being and to manage any problems.
Treatment for lymphoma may affect your fertility. If you are worried about your fertility it is important to talk with your doctor before you start treatment. We have more information about:
Everyone has their own way of dealing with illness and the different emotions they experience. You may find it helpful to talk things over with family and friends or your doctor or nurse.
Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:
The organisations below also offer information and support:
Blood Cancer UK
Lymphoma Action gives emotional support, advice and information for people with Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma and those close to them. It has a national network of people with lymphoma, as well as local groups. Their website has a section called trialslink where you can see information about lymphoma clinical trials.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Blood and bone marrow cancers. NICE Pathways. Last accessed 3 December 2020.
Auer. R, Cook. L et al. Pan-London Haemato-Oncology Clinical Guidelines. Lymphoid Malignancies. Part 5: Less common lymphoid malignancies. January 2020. Available here: Pan-London-Less-Common-Guidelines-Jan-2020.pdf (rmpartners.nhs.uk)
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist.
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