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.

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 causes for 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 for 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

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

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 symptoms, how fast the disease is progressing, and if blood counts are low.

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 for 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,
Immune

REFERENCES

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 September 18, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020.

National Cancer Institute website. Childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/child-nhl-treatment-pdq. Updated February 5, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2020.

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: Phase 2
  • Intervention Type: Drug, Biological
  • Participants: 45
  • Start Date: January 14, 2022
A Phase II Study of Modified VR-CAP and Acalabrutinib as First Line Therapy for Transplant-Eligible Patients With Mantle Cell Lymphoma
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: Phase 2
  • Intervention Type: Biological, Drug
  • Participants: 63
  • Start Date: December 31, 2021
A Phase 2 Trial of the Combination of Polatuzumab Vedotin, Venetoclax and Rituximab and Hyaluronidase Human for Relapsed and Refractory Mantle Cell Lymphoma