MENU

About Lymphoma

Carlyn Rose Tan, MD is an assistant professor in the department of hematology/oncology, and specializes in the treatment of patients with lymphoma and myeloma.Carlyn Rose Tan, MD is an assistant professor in the department of hematology/oncology, and specializes in the treatment of patients with lymphoma and myeloma.

Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer. It occurs in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphocytes travel throughout the bloodstream and the lymphatic system to fight infection. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, nodes and ducts that passes through nearly all of the body’s organs and tissues. Lymphocytes that mutate and become cancerous can spread throughout the lymphatic tissue and to the organs. Cancers that begin in the colon, kidney or other organs and spread to lymphatic tissue are not lymphomas.

There are two main categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma (previously called Hodgkin's disease) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma is named after Dr. Thomas Hodgkin who first described a pattern of disease in the lymph nodes back in the 1830s. It was later recognized that there are many different types of lymphoma, so the term non-Hodgkin lymphoma was created to describe all other lymphomas. These lymphomas originate from different cell types, look different under the microscope and can have different clinical features.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs found underneath the skin in the neck, underarm and groin or inside the chest, abdomen and pelvis. Hodgkin lymphoma is rare, accounting for about 10 percent of lymphoma cases. Most cases are classified as classical Hodgkin lymphoma, which is characterized by abnormal B lymphocytes called Reed-Sternberg cells. There are four subtypes of classical Hodgkin lymphoma with different patterns of enlarged lymph nodes. The stage at which lymphoma is likely to be diagnosed and the treatment can vary by disease subtype.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also called NHL or simply "lymphoma") is a cancerous growth of mutated B, T or NK cells in the lymph system. B cells make up the largest group of lymphomas (about 90 percent in the United States), followed by T-cell lymphoma (about 10 percent) and NK-cell lymphoma (<1 percent).

Many types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are classified by the cell type they originate from and their growth rate. Lymphomas are categorized as aggressive (fast-growing) or indolent (slow-growing). Indolent and aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas are equally common among adults.

Symptoms

Lymphoma can affect many different tissues and organs in the body. The symptoms often depend on where the lymph gland enlargement occurs. Symptoms related to the gastrointestinal system, the kidneys, or other parts of the body can be present depending on the location of the lymphoma. More generalized symptoms may include

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever, night sweats
  • Low energy
  • Weight loss

Of course, not everyone who has these symptoms has lymphoma—they are common symptoms that may be due to other conditions.

What Causes Lymphoma?

Most of the time, there is no clear reason why lymphoma develops. Some factors seem to be loosely associated with developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, like:

  • Being male
  • Older age (>60 years)
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having certain infections like human immunodeficiency virus or epstein-barr virus
  • Exposure to certain drugs or chemicals like agent orange

Most people with risk factors do not get non-Hodgkin lymphoma, however.

The Fox Chase Difference

Where you go for lymphoma care—and how quickly you are seen—can make a big difference. At Fox Chase Cancer Center, we work with you to choose a treatment approach that offers the best chance of controlling your cancer, preserving function and reducing the risk of recurrence.

Our nationally-recognized multidisciplinary medical teams help make individualized decisions for your type and stage of lymphoma. The hematologic oncology team meets regularly to review new or challenging cases in depth and reach a consensus on treatment strategies. This coordinated approach lets us offer the most thorough and personalized care as well as access to innovative therapies like immunotherapy.

What To Do Next

Request an appointment online, or call 888-FOX-CHASE. For general information or to ask us a question, please visit our Contact Us page.

Connect with Fox Chase