Learn About Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

What is the definition of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is cancer of the lymph tissue. Lymph tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs of the immune system.

White blood cells, called lymphocytes, are found in lymph tissue. They help prevent infections. Most lymphomas start in a type of white blood cell called the B lymphocyte, or B cell.

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What are the alternative names for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Lymphoma - non-Hodgkin; Lymphocytic lymphoma; Histiocytic lymphoma; Lymphoblastic lymphoma; Cancer - non-Hodgkin lymphoma; NHL

What are the different types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
What are the causes of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

For most people, the cause of NHL is unknown. But lymphomas may develop in people with weakened immune systems, including people who have had an organ transplant or people with HIV infection.

NHL most often affects adults. Men develop NHL more often than women. Children can also develop some forms of NHL.

There are many types of NHL. One classification (grouping) is by how fast the cancer spreads. The cancer may be low grade (slow growing), intermediate grade, or high grade (fast growing).

NHL is further grouped by how the cells look under the microscope, what type of white blood cell it originates from, and whether there are certain DNA changes in the tumor cells themselves.

What are the symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Symptoms depend on what area of the body is affected by the cancer and how fast the cancer is growing.

Symptoms may include:

  • Drenching night sweats
  • Fever and chills that come and go
  • Itching
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, groin, or other areas
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing or shortness of breath if the cancer affects the thymus gland or lymph nodes in the chest, putting pressure on the windpipe (trachea) or its branches
  • Abdominal pain or swelling, leading to loss of appetite, constipation, nausea, and vomiting
  • Headache, concentration problems, personality changes, or seizures if the cancer affects the brain
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What are the current treatments for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Treatment depends on:

  • The specific type of NHL
  • The stage when you are first diagnosed
  • Your age and overall health
  • Symptoms, including weight loss, fever, and night sweats

You may receive chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Or you may not need immediate treatment. Your provider can tell you more about your specific treatment.

Radioimmunotherapy may be used in some cases. This involves linking a radioactive substance to an antibody that targets the cancerous cells and injecting the substance into the body.

A type of chemotherapy called targeted therapy may be tried. It uses a drug to focus on specific targets (molecules) in or on cancer cells. Using these targets, the drug disables the cancer cells so they cannot spread.

High-dose chemotherapy may be given when NHL recurs or fails to respond to the first treatment administered. This is followed by an autologous stem cell transplant (using your own stem cells) to rescue the bone marrow after the high-dose chemotherapy. With certain types of NHL, these treatment steps are used at first remission to try and achieve a cure.

Blood transfusions or platelet transfusions may be required if blood counts are low.

You and your provider may need to manage other concerns during your leukemia treatment, including:

  • Having chemotherapy at home
  • Managing your pets during chemotherapy
  • Bleeding problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Eating enough calories
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What are the support groups for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Low-grade NHL often cannot be cured by chemotherapy alone. Low-grade NHL progresses slowly and may take many years before the disease gets worse or even requires treatment. The need for treatment is usually determined by the type of lymphoma, symptoms, and how fast the disease is progressing.

Chemotherapy may cure many types of high-grade lymphomas. If the cancer does not respond to chemotherapy, the disease can cause rapid death.

What are the possible complications of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

NHL itself and its treatments can lead to health problems. These include:

  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed by the immune system
  • Infection
  • Side effects of chemotherapy drugs

Keep following up with a provider who knows about monitoring and preventing these complications.

When should I contact a medical professional for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Call your provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder.

If you have NHL, call your provider if you experience persistent fever or other signs of infection.

Lymphoma, malignant - CT scan
Immune system structures
What are the latest Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Clinical Trials?
A Phase 2, Open-label, Single Arm, Multicohort, Multicenter Trial to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of JCAR017 in Adult Subjects With Relapsed or Refractory Indolent B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)

Summary: This is a global Phase 2, open-label, single-arm, multicohort, multicenter study to evaluate efficacy and safety of JCAR017 in adult subjects with r/r FL or MZL. The study will be conducted in compliance with the International Council on Harmonisation (ICH) of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use/Good Clinical Practice (GCP) and applicable regulatory requirement...

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A Phase 1 Study of Oral LOXO-338, a Selective BCL-2 Inhibitor, in Patients With Advanced Hematologic Malignancies

Summary: The purpose of this study is to find out whether the study drug, LOXO-338, is safe and effective in patients with advanced blood cancer. Patients must have already received standard therapy. The study may last up to approximately 3 years.

What are the Latest Advances for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
A multicenter, phase II study of full-dose THP-COP therapy for elderly patients with newly diagnosed, advanced-stage, aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Safety and Efficacy of Humanized Versus Murinized CD19 and CD22 CAR T-Cell Cocktail Therapy for Refractory/Relapsed B-Cell Lymphoma.
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Next-Generation Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 25, 2022
Published By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Abramson JS. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 103.

National Cancer Institute website. Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq. Updated January 18, 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.

National Cancer Institute website. Childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/child-nhl-treatment-pdq. Updated April 1, 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.