- What Is It?
- vs. Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- 2 Types
- How to Get
- 4 Stages
- Survival Rate
What is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a part of the body’s immune system. The lymphatic system helps in filtering foreign cells and microorganisms. The lymphatic system is comprised of lymph fluid, lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, and the spleen.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually originates in the lymph nodes and other lymph tissue, although the skin may also be affected.
Lymph tissues are present in:
- Bone marrow
- Digestive tract
Approximately 74,200 people in the United States were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the year 2019, as reported by the American Cancer Society. It is the seventh most commonly occurring cancer among all cancers.
What is the difference between Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Lymphomas are of two types, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Physicians distinguish the lymphomas by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are absent in Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Reed-Sternberg cells are giant cells present in the lymph fluid that are easily detectable under the microscope.
What are the different types of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves the abnormal production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) affecting the immune system. These lymphocytes are of two types:
- B lymphocytes (B cells): B cells protect the body from foreign microbes by producing antibodies
- T lymphocytes (T cells): T cells primarily modify the activities of cells of the immune system
Based on the rate of disease progression, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be classified as:
- Indolent lymphomas: The rate of growth and spreading is slow. The most common type of lymphoma is follicular lymphoma.
- Aggressive lymphomas spread rapidly and require immediate treatment. The most common type is diffuse large B cell lymphoma.
There are some cancers such as mantle cell lymphoma, which do not fall into either category.
How do you get Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Like most cancers, the exact cause of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is unknown. However, a variety of conditions act as risk factors in the development of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma:
- Family history of lymphoma
- Inherited immune-deficiency disease
- Helicobacter pylori infection associated with stomach cancer
- Viral infections such as HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, and hepatitis C virus
- Autoimmune disorders such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Exposure to radiation and chemotherapy
- Exposure to various chemicals present in the herbicides, pesticides, solvents, and preservatives
- Genetic disorder such as Down syndrome
- Celiac disease: inability to digest gluten
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Age above 60 years
- Women with breast implants
- Alcohol intake
- Diets high in fat and meat products
- Ultraviolet exposure
What are the symptoms and signs of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma exhibits different signs and symptoms. Many other conditions may also exhibit similar symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma observed are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged abdomen
- Weight loss
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath or cough
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Frequent and severe infections
- Abdominal fullness
- Fever without an infection
- Abnormal night sweats
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty concentrating
- Double vision
- Facial numbness
- Slurring speech
- Itchy skin
- Red or purple lumps under the skin
How is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosed?
The doctor uses a variety of tests and examinations to diagnose Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma:
- Medical history and physical exam: Complete medical history of the signs and symptoms. The physician will examine some swelling and infection of the lymph nodes. Some blood tests will be used to rule out infection.
- Biopsy: A biopsy will be suggested if the size, texture, location, or presence of other symptoms strongly suggest a Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The biopsies usually performed to diagnose Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:
- Excisional or incisional biopsy: Excisional biopsy involves the removal of the entire lymph node for diagnosis. An incisional biopsy involves the removal of a small part of the tumor.
- Needle biopsy: A less invasive procedure as compared to an excisional biopsy, but less accurate.
- Bone marrow aspiration: These are done to confirm if the lymphoma has involved the bone marrow.
- Lumbar puncture: This test detects lymphoma cells in the brain.
- Pleural or peritoneal fluid sampling: Lymphoma, if spread to the chest and abdomen, can be detected using this method.
- Laboratory tests involve flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry in which the biopsy samples are treated with antibodies.
- Imaging tests such as chest X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and a bone scan helps in diagnosing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and its extent.
- Blood tests, such as complete blood cell count, blood chemistry tests, and lactate dehydrogenase, tests also help in diagnosing the extent of the disease.
Latest Cancer News
Daily Health News
What are the 4 stages of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Oncologists classify the stages of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma based on the extent of the spread of the disease. The current staging system in adults (known as Lugano classification) is:
- Stage I: The cancer is present in only one of the organs inside the lymphatic system (such as in tonsils) or one organ outside the lymphatic system (such as lung or bone marrow).
- Stage II: Lymphomas may be present in two lymph node areas on the same side, or above or below the diaphragm, which is a thin band of muscle separating the chest and abdomen. The lymphoma may also be present in one organ and the lymph nodes in the nearby area.
- Stage III: The lymphoma is in the lymph node area, which may be above or below the diaphragm.
- Stage IV: Lymphomas have spread to several organs and tissues.
How is Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treated?
The various treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy: Physician administers this drug via oral or injection route.
- Radiation therapy: A high dose of radiation terminates the cancer cell.
- Stem cell transplant: Physician injects healthy stem cells taken from the donor before the treatment.
- Biological drugs: Certain drugs such as Rituxan (rituximab) and Gazyva (Obinutuzumab) enhance the immune system’s ability to combat cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy drugs: Certain drugs such as Velcade (bortezomib) target the growth of lymphoma cells.
- Surgery may be preferred if the lymphomas are present in the spleen or stomach, and have not spread beyond that.
What is the survival rate for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
The five-year survival rate of patients suffering from NHL is 72%, which means 72% of the patients with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will live for five years or more (data from 2009-2015). It is, however, important to keep in mind that the survival rate depends on the types and stages of the lymphoma. The outcome of the treatment depends on:
- Cancer stage
- Patient’s age
- Performance status
In recent decades, the survival rate for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma has improved progressively. The risks, outcomes, and complications of the treatment should be discussed with the treating physician.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Do You Get Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Related Articles
Bone CancerBone cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in cells that make up the bones. Primary bone cancer that arises in bone cells is different than metastatic bone cancer, which is cancer that arises in another part of the body and then spreads to the bones. Hereditary and environmental factors likely contribute to the risk of bone cancer. Signs and symptoms of bone cancer may include pain, the presence of a mass or lump, and bone fractures. There are different types of bone cancer (osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, pleomorphic sarcoma, fibrosarcoma). Treatment for bone cancer may include surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or a stem cell transplant. The prognosis for bone cancer depends on the type of cancer and the extent of spread.
Cancer 101 SlideshowLearn the basics about cancer including types, causes, how it spreads, symptoms and signs, stages and treatment options. Read about the common type of cancers.
Cancer QuizTake this quiz to learn the causes of cancer. Get the facts about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the world's most common cancers.
What Conditions Are Extracorporeal Photopheresis Used For?Extracorporeal photopheresis procedure processes the patient’s blood to selectively treat the white cells and curb their proliferation in cancer like lymphoma and other conditions. The blood passes through a device which performs photopheresis involving light and medications, and returns the treated white cells and blood back into circulation to improve the condition.
Cancer: Does This Cause Cancer?Everything gives you cancer, right? Not really. WebMD's slide show tells you about the research into cancer and cell phones, X-rays, plastic bottles, coffee, and more.
Folotyn (pralatrexate)Folotyn (pralatrexate injection) is an antineoplastic (anti-cancer) drug used to treat T-cell lymphoma that has spread throughout the body. Folotyn is given for relapsed T-cell lymphoma, or after other medications have been tried without successful treatment.
Gastric Cancer QuizWhat are the main risk factors for gastric cancer? Where does gastric cancer occur? Take this quiz to learn about this different type of cancer.
Hodgkin's vs. Non-Hodgkin's LymphomaBoth Hodgkin's disease (sometimes referred to as Hodgkin's lymphoma) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are cancers that originate in a type of white blood cell known as a lymphocyte, an important component of the body's immune system.
Leukeran (chlorambucil)Leukeran (chlorambucil) is a prescription medicine used to treat the symptoms of Chronic Lymphatic (Lymphocytic) Leukemia and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Leukeran may be used alone or with other medications. Serious side effects of Leukeran include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, seizures, unusual mass or lump, severe vomiting or diarrhea, new or worsening cough, easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under skin, and others.
Matulane (procarbazine hydrochloride)Matulane (procarbazine hydrochloride) Capsules is a cancer medication that is given with other cancer medications to treat Hodgkin's Disease (a type of blood cancer). Common side effects of Matulane include nausea and vomiting (may be severe), loss of appetite, stomach pain, constipation, dry mouth, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness, headache, trouble sleeping, muscle or joint pain, temporary hair loss, darkening of the skin, itching or rash, urinating more than usual, or changes in your menstrual periods.
Men's Cancer SymptomsSee pictures of which 15 cancer symptoms men ignore such as skin changes, difficulty swallowing, rapid weight loss, a breast mass, and more. Learn possible clues to finding and detecting cancer early.
Non-Hodgkin's LymphomaNon-Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, a vital part of the body's immune system. Symptoms and signs include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, coughing, weakness, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, and abdominal pain. Treatment depends on which type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma one has, the stage of the cancer, one's age, how fast the cancer is growing, and whether one has other health problems.
Treanda (bendamustine hydrochloride) InjectionTreanda (bendamustine hydrochloride) injection is an antineoplastic (anticancer) medication used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Treanda is also used to treat indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma after other medications have been tried without successful treatment of this condition. Common side effects of Treanda include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, weakness, mouth sores, constipation, upset stomach, swelling in your hands or feet, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, weight loss, and mild skin rash.
Valchlor (mechlorethamine)Valchlor is a prescription medicine used on the skin (topical) to treat people with Stage 1A and 1B mycosis fungoides-type cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, who have received previous skin treatment. It is not known if Valchlor is safe and effective in children. Serious side effects include inflammation of your skin (dermatitis), and increased risk of certain types of skin cancers.
What Is the Main Cause of Primary Lymphoma of Bone?Primary lymphoma of bone (PLB) is a rare type of cancer that starts in the bone instead of the lymph nodes. PLB accounts for less than 5% of all bone tumors. PLB is also known as reticulum cell sarcoma, malignant lymphoma of bone or osteolymphoma, and it is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Pain is the most common symptom of PLB.
Why Is an Endobronchial Ultrasound Performed?Endobronchial ultrasound is a procedure used to diagnose various lung problems, including infections and cancer. Endobronchial ultrasound allows physicians to perform a technique known as transbronchial needle aspiration. It helps the doctors to obtain tissue or fluid samples from the lungs. The samples can be used for diagnosing and staging lung cancer, detecting infections, and identifying inflammatory diseases that affect the lungs, such as sarcoidosis or cancers like lymphoma.
Female Cancer SymptomsCancer symptoms can surprise women if they don't know what to watch out for. 15 cancer symptoms women ignore such as weight loss, bloating, breast changes, unusual bleeding, skin changes, difficulty swallowing, indigestion, and more. Learn possible clues to finding and detecting cancer early.
Xpovio (selinexor)Xpovio is a prescription medicine used in combination with dexamethasone to treat adults with multiple myeloma (MM), and to treat adults with certain types of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Xpovio can cause serious side effects, including nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss, decreased sodium levels in your blood, serious infections, and neurologic side effects.
Zydelig (idelalisib)Zydelig is a prescription medication used to treat relapsed forms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), follicular B-cell non- Hodgkin lymphoma (FL), and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). Zydelig is not indicated and is not recommended as a first-line treatment. Serious side effects of Zydelig include fatal and/or serious hepatotoxicity, severe diarrhea, pneumonitis, infections, and intestinal perforation.