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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer within the cells of the immune system, specifically the lymphocyte cells (a type of white blood cell) in lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, digestive tract, thymus (a small organ behind the breast bone), and bone marrow. There are two types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be classified as aggressive (fast-growing) or indolent (slow-growing) cancers depending on the type. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and researchers have yet to determine a direct cause for the disease. Individuals with severely suppressed immune systems have a higher risk. The survival rate depends on the type and stage of the lymphoma.
- The survival rate has been increasing since the mid-1990s, non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers in the U.S.
- In 2018, 74,680 Americans will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and 19,910will die from the disease.
- In Texas in 2018, 5,060 diagnoses of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are expected, with 1,517 deaths.
- While non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur in children, it is more common in adults, with about half of the cases occurring in individuals over 66 years of age.
- Weak Immune System: People with a weakened immune system as a result of an inherited immune disorder like ataxia-telangiectasia (AT), hypogammaglobulinemia, or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome; or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Sjögren syndrome, lupus, or celiac disease have an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some drugs used to modulate the immune system in non-cancer diseases are associated with an increased lymphoma risk.
- Some Long-Term Infections: People who have had certain types of immune-depressing infections, such as HIV/AIDS, Helicobacter pylori, Hepatitis C, Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1, Chlamydophila psittaci, human herpes virus 8, or Epstein-Barr virus are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Organ Transplant Patients: People who have had organ transplants are at risk, as anti-rejection medications often suppress the immune system.
- Demographics: Males and Caucasians are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Body Weight: Being overweight or obese may increase risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Exposure to certain chemicals and radiation: Exposure to chemicals in some chemotherapy drugs, pesticides, and benzene, as well as exposure to high levels of radiation, may increase risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Breast Implants: Having breast implants can increase the risk of developing anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
The following may be symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but could be linked to other health conditions. If the following symptoms are present, individuals are encouraged to consult their physician:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the underarms, groin, stomach, or neck
- Night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swollen abdomen
- Unexplained pain or discomfort in the abdomen, chest, or bones
- Itchiness, skin rash or lumps
- Cough, shortness of breath
- Feeling full easily
There is no known prevention for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Prevention of a weakened immune system is the best way to reduce the risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, along with maintaining a healthy body weight.
Treatment options may be tailored based on the type of lymphoma, stage, the patient’s overall health, and potential side effects of therapy. Treatment can include watchful waiting, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, proton therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplants. Physicians including a hematologist, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist may be part of the medical team, depending on the treatment.
Sources: American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Cancer Registry