Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL, or lymphoma) is a cancer that begins in cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes, a part of the body’s immune system, are found in the lymph nodes and other lymphoid tissues.
Lymphoma Risk Factors
- Age – Most diagnoses of lymphoma occurs after the age of 60.
- Gender – Overall, men are more likely to develop lymphoma than women.
- Race – Lymphoma is more common in Caucasian individuals.
- Exposure to certain chemicals – It has been suggested that chemicals such as benzene and certain herbicides and insecticides are linked to an increase risk of developing lymphoma.
- Immune system deficiency – Individuals with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Lymphoma Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of lymphoma vary depending on its location in the body. In some cases symptoms may not present until the lymphoma is quite large in size. Common symptoms may include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Swollen abdomen (belly)
- Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath or cough
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
There are no widely recommended screening tests for this cancer, but it can be identified early if attention is given when common symptoms occur. After a physical examination, a physician may order a biopsy of any suspicious areas.
If cancer is found, a physician will need to determine the progression of the cancer. This classification, called staging, allows the healthcare provider to properly identify a treatment plan and to determine the prognosis. All cancers are staged on a roman numeral scale, of I-IV (1-4), where the higher stage represents more advanced cancer.
Once non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed, tests are done to determine the stage of the disease. Tests used to gather information for staging include:
- Biopsies of enlarged lymph nodes or other abnormal areas
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests (such as CT scans)
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap – this may not need to be done)
There are many treatment options for lymphoma, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Each method may be used alone, or in combination.
- Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs are administered orally by pills or injected directly into the bloodstream. They travel throughout the body to reach cancer cells that may have spread beyond the point of origin.
- Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in the treatment area. It is mostly administered externally from a machine outside the body, similar to an x-ray, but for a longer period of time.
- Surgery treats the cancer by removing the cancerous tissue. The type of surgery required depends on the stage of the cancer.
At Comprehensive Cancer Centers, research and the participation in clinical research trials is a vital part of our mission. Our physicians are dedicated to finding new ways to treat this disease. We are able to offer our patients access to groundbreaking clinical research close to home. Many of the advancements being made in cancer treatment are the result of in-depth clinical research. For more information about our research efforts, click here.