Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) may refer to any lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system) that is not Hodgkin lymphoma. The lymph system is a network of lymph tissue connected by vessels. The lymph system is separate from the blood circulatory system. The main types of cells in lymph tissue are lymphocytes which are white blood cells that fight bacteria, viruses and other foreign cells. Lymph tissue includes lymph nodes as well as knots of lymphocytes found in the intestines, spleen and bone marrow. Lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes begin to multiply uncontrollably or become cancerous. These cancerous cells can invade other parts of the body or metastasize. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin lymphoma. There are different types of NHL depending on if the cancer began in B-cells or T-cells as well as other characteristics.
Symptoms of NHL may include a swelling of the lymph nodes, unexplained fever, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue, and itching. In general the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphomas is unknown. NHL is more common in males and Caucasians. The risk of developing NHL increases with age, certain viral and bacterial infections and exposure to environmental exposure to certain chemicals and pesticides. NHL more often occurs in persons with an autoimmune disease or weakened immune systems such as those with HIV/AIDS or those who have undergone a transplant.
Lymphomas are generally diagnosed through a biopsy of the lymph nodes and sometimes a biopsy of the bone marrow. Other tests may be performed to determine where the cancer is located and how far it has spread. Treatment is similar to that of other cancers and may include radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy or a stem cell transplant. Treatment and prognosis depend upon the type and stage of NHL. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, talk with your doctor and specialists about the most current treatment options.