Advances at the cutting edge of health care over the last twenty years have been breathtaking. Nearly every field has been affected. Nearly everything doctors do for patients can also have unintended consequences. A big one is the incidental development of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a potentially very serious malignancy.
The History of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Excess cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma started with organ transplants as early as the 1960’s. In particular heart transplant recipients who had been exposed to the virus causing infectious mononucleosis (the EB Virus) had a very high risk of getting a peculiar kind of lymphoma which could be lethal. This was such a problem that even today some transplant programs won’t accept patients who have ever contracted mono. The cause of the lymphoma was thought to be the suppression of the recipient’s immune system with drugs, required to avoid rejection of the new heart.