Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains excess fluid from tissues. It also helps protect against infections.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a name that applies to many types of lymphomas. These types are based on the cell that is involved and the patterns of growth.
In general, these types can be classified as: Slow growing lymphomas, also known as indolent lymphomasAggressive lymphomasHighly aggressive lymphomas
These cancers are different from
The Lymphatic System
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Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide out of control or order. If cells keep dividing, a mass of tissue forms. These are called growths or tumors. If the tumor is cancer, it is called malignant. It can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
The cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. DNA mutations that occur after birth may be related to this cancer. These mutations can occur as a result of exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals. They may also occur with age or for no apparent reason.
Most people who develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma have no known risk factors. Men and people age 60 to 70 years old are at increased risk. The following factors may also increase your chance of developing this condition: Frequent and accumulating exposure to certain types of chemicals, such as herbicides, pesticides, benzene, and chlorinated organic solvents
Infections involving the immune system, such as
Epstein-Barr virusHistory of
radiation therapy, or immunosuppressive therapy
Chromosomal translocations, which occur when DNA breaks off one chromosome and becomes attached to anotherA parent who has had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, especially if it occurred at an early ageCeliac disease—gluten enteropathy or gluten intolerance
Chronic infections, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndromeObesity
Symptoms include: Painless swelling of the neck, underarm, groin, or any other lymph node-bearing regions of the bodyUnexplained feverProfuse sweatingConstant fatigueUnexplained weight lossItchy skin, especially on the legs and feetRed patches on the skinChest pain or shortness of breathBruising
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A
will be done. It will include an exam of your lymph nodes.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
Excisional or incisional
biopsyFine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsyBone marrow aspiration and biopsyLumbar punctureImmunohistochemistryFlow cytometryCytogenetics and/or molecular genetic studiesBlood tests
Imaging tests are used to view internal structures. Some may use contrast material to make stuctures easier to see. Imaging tests may include: Chest x-rayCT scanMRI scanPET scanGallium scanBone scanUltrasound
depend on the stage and type of cancer. The type is determined in part by a microscopic exam and other studies. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:
For some indolent lymphomas, no treatment may be needed for some time. Treatment is needed if the tumor begins to cause symptoms.
Treatment may also be needed if the tumor becomes too large to tolerate, or shows signs of becoming aggressive.
involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given by pill, injection, or via a catheter (tube). The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. They will kill mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells may also be killed.
is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body to kill the cancer cells.
You may be able to use your own bone marrow.
is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are then applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein.
Marrow may also be donated by a healthy person.
Stem cells are immature cells that produce blood cells. They are removed from circulating blood before chemotherapy or radiation treatment. These cells are then replaced after treatment. The cells can then develop new, healthy cells.
These medications or substances are made by the body. They increase or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.
Interferons are one type of biological therapy. They interfere with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth. Interferons are produced by the body. They can also be made in a lab to treat cancer and other diseases.
Sometimes, a drug or antibody that is directed at the lymphoma is linked to a radioactive substance. It will deliver a focused dose of radiation to the tumor.
There are no guidelines for preventing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. To reduce your risk, avoid exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, benzene, and chlorinated organic solvents. If you have
celiac disease, maintain your gluten-free diet. This diet will minimize stimulation of your immune system from exposure to gluten.
General information about adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
Accessed February 25, 2015.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003126-pdf.pdf. Accessed February 25, 2015.
2/5/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Kharazmi E, Fallah M, Sundquist K, et al. Familial risk of early and late onset cancer: nationwide prospective cohort study.
7/7/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Liang Y, Yang Z, Qin B, Zhong R. Primary Sjogren's syndrome and malignancy risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014;73(6):1151-1156.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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