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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or NHL, is cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes are a kind of white blood cell and help your body fight infection.

There are more than 60 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

A doctor can identify the type of lymphoma by examining the cancer cells under a microscope.

Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are organized into two main groups:

  1. B-cell lymphomas develop from abnormal B-lymphocytes. They are the most common, making up about 85 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas in the U.S. Examples of B-cell lymphomas include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (the most common subtype), follicular lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma.
  2. T-cell lymphomas develop from abnormal T-lymphocytes and are more rare. Examples of T-cell lymphomas include peripheral T-cell lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause different symptoms, depending on where it is in the body. In some cases it might not cause any symptoms until it grows quite large.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Just because you have these symptoms does not mean you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Other conditions can cause similar problems, so make sure to see a doctor.

How can I get help for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Make an appointment to see your primary care doctor if you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms. Your symptoms are more likely to be caused by an infection or another non-cancerous problem. For this reason, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or another treatment and recommend waiting a few weeks to see if your symptoms go away.

If your symptoms continue, your doctor will recommend a biopsy — removing cells to test for cancer. A positive biopsy means that you have cancer. Your doctor will recommend that you make an appointment with one or more doctors who specialize in treating cancer. You will need additional tests to determine the type of lymphoma and if it has spread in your body.

Care for adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at Rush

Your cancer care team will discuss treatment options with you. These treatment options will depend on many factors, such as the type of lymphoma you have and how much it has spread.

Treatment options available at Rush include ones currently used, as well as new options or combinations that are being tested in clinical trials:

  • Chemotherapy: You may receive a single drug or a combination of drugs to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing.
  • Radiation therapy: You may receive radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to treat your cancer. Targeted radiation therapy, which selectively delivers radiation to only cancer cells, may be available for your type of lymphoma through clinical trials at Rush.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment, which includes monoclonal antibodies, uses your own immune system to fight your cancer. New agents or combinations may be available for your type of lymphoma through clinical trials at Rush.
  • Stem cell transplant: Immature blood cells called stem cells can get transplanted into your body to replenish your blood. A stem cell transplant allows you to receive higher doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat your cancer.

Care for children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at Rush

Chemotherapy is often the main treatment for children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma since it can reach and destroy cancer cells throughout the body. If cancer returns after treatment, some children may need high-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplantation.

Radiation therapy is rarely used to treat lymphoma in children because it can cause serious long-term side effects. For example, radiation therapy to the chest may cause future damage to the heart, lungs or breasts. Radiation therapy to other areas may slow a child’s growth or cause other types of cancer.

Why choose Rush for non-Hodgkin lymphoma care

  • For children with cancer, Rush collaborates with the National Cancer Institute and the Children’s Oncology Group to evaluate different treatments. These clinical trials seek to find the most effective treatment combinations causing the fewest side effects.
  • Clinical trials for adult patients offer treatment options that may not be available elsewhere.
  • The Comprehensive Lymphoma Center has many doctors specializing in lymphoma treatment. These doctors work together to make sure you receive an accurate diagnosis, comprehensive treatment and follow-up care.
  • If you need a stem cell transplant, Rush is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy, showing that Rush complies with quality standards for cell collection, laboratory processing and transplantation.

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