11 Key Facts About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

An overview one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is one type of lymphoma, a type of cancer that develops in the body’s lymphatic system. NHL originates in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Below are some key facts to know more about this disease:

Fact #1: The body contains two main types of lymphocytes: B lymphocytes (or B cells), which produce antibodies in order to fight germs; and T lymphocytes (or T cells), which attack bacteria or abnormal cells in the system. There are also lymphocytes called NK cells, or “natural killer cells.”) NHL can develop in any type, but B cell lymphomas are more common in the U.S.

Fact #2: There are at least 86 different subtypes of NHL. These fall into two broad categories: indolent non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which grow and spread slowly, and present few symptoms; and aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which grow quickly, spread quickly and may cause severe symptoms.

Fact #3: NHL accounts for an estimated 4 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States, making it one of the most common forms of cancer.

Fact #4: People of all ages are diagnosed with NHL, but half of patients are over the age of 65.

Fact #5: Because lymphatic tissue is found throughout the body, NHL can begin in many different areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, the thymus, the spleen, the digestive tract, the throat and others.

Fact #7: Risk factors for NHL include exposure to certain chemicals or radiation, as well as age, family history, gender and race—the disease is more common in Caucasian males over the age of 65.

Fact #8: Having been diagnosed with another condition that compromises the immune system, such as an autoimmune disease, and taking medications that suppress the immune system, are other risk factors for NHL.

Fact #9: NHL can cause a wide variety of symptoms. These include swollen lymph nodes, headaches, weight loss, fever, night sweats, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain. Gastrointestinal issues, such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, abdominal bloating and feeling full are also symptoms.

Fact #10: The majority of patients who are diagnosed with NHL have Stage III or stage IV.

Fact #11: There are many different treatment options for NHL, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants and immunotherapy. Treatment options for NHL are determined by a combination of factors, including the stage of the cancer, the symptoms, the patient’s age and overall health, and what treatments the patient has used in the past.

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