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Home > Cancers We Treat > Hematologic Cancer > Lymphoma > Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Adult Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Definition

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains excess fluid from tissues. It also helps protect against infections. Non-Hodgkin’s 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 lymphomas
  • Aggressive lymphomas
  • Highly aggressive lymphomas
A graphic depicting the normal lymphatic system within the outline of a human, including the tonsils, lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow and spleen.
The Lymphatic System
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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.

Causes

The cause of non-Hodgkin’s 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.

Risk

Most people who develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have no known risk factors. However, the following factors may increase your chance of developing this condition:

  • Sex: male
  • Age: 60 to 70 years old
  • 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 HIV/AIDS and Epstein-Barr virus
  • History of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunosupressive therapy
  • Chromosomal translocations, which occur when DNA breaks off one chromosome and becomes attached to another
  • A parent who has had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, especially if they had it at an early age
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic infections, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome
  • Obesity

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Painless swelling of the neck, underarm, groin, or any other lymph node-bearing regions of the body
  • Unexplained fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Constant fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchy skin, especially on the legs and feet
  • Red patches on the skin
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Bruising

Diagnosis

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Excisional or incisional biopsy
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  • Spinal tap
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Flow cytometry
  • Cytogenetics and/or molecular genetic studies
  • Blood tests

Your doctor may need to view your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Gallium scan
  • Bone scan
  • Ultrasound

Treatment

Treatment options include:

  • Watchful Waiting
  • Chemotherapy
  • External Radiation Therapy
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Peripheral Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Biological Therapy

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing non-Hodgkin’s 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.

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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