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They may start in the bone marrow, spleen, thymus or lymph nodes and spread to other parts of the body.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the seventh most common cancer in men and women in the nation. According to the American Cancer Society, about 66,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in white men.
What are the parts of the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system carries disease-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. It includes:
Lymph: Fluid that carries lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells, through the body in a network of lymph vessels, which are like tiny veins. Lymph helps fight against infection and cancer.
Lymph nodes: Tiny, bean-shaped masses in the underarm, pelvis, neck, abdomen and groin. They filter lymph and store white blood cells to help the body fight disease.
Spleen: An organ on the left side of the abdomen that makes lymphocytes, stores blood cells and gets rid of old blood cells.
Thymus: Located in the chest, this tiny organ stores lymphocytes.
Tonsils: The are nodes in back of throat that produce lymphocytes.
Bone marrow: This is material in bones that produces blood cells.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Types
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into three types depending on the type of cells in the cancer. These types are:
- B-cell, which makes up 85% of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is classified also by how quickly it spreads.
Low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes:
- Marginal zone lymphoma
- Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma
- Follicular lymphoma
- Mantle cell lymphoma
Intermediate grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes:
- Diffuse large cell lymphoma
- Primary mediastinal large cell lymphoma
- Anaplastic large cell lymphoma
High-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes:
- Burkitt’s lymphoma
- Lymphoblastic lymphoma
Relapsed non-Hodgkin lymphoma is disease that comes back after you have received treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma is new or relapsed disease that does not respond to treatment.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a risk factor. Although scientists don’t know yet what causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, some factors seem to make you more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These include:
- Gender: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in men
- Race: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in Caucasians
- Living in a farming community. Some studies suggest that certain herbicides and pesticides may play a part in lymphoma, but this has not been proven
- Bacteria or viruses, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori
- Inherited syndromes
Not everyone with risk factors gets non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, if you have risk factors, you should discuss them with your doctor.
Learn more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma:
In rare cases, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.
Why choose MD Anderson for non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment?
At MD Anderson's Lymphoma and Myeloma Center, our goal is to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma with methods that are strong on the disease, but as gentle as possible on your body.
Drawing upon a wide range of treatments for every stage of disease, as well as clinical trials of new and novel agents, our physicians design a treatment plan that is uniquely yours. We're constantly working to bring new treatments to patients, including targeted biological agents that help your body fight the cancer.
While some patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be successfully treated, for many the most effective course is to keep knocking back the disease over a period of many years. In these cases, personalized long-term care is especially important. Our teams of specialized physicians, as well as support staff including nurses, physician assistants, dietitians, social workers and many others, work closely together – and with you – to give you higher chance for successful treatment.
MD Anderson has helped advance the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in many areas, including development of new, leading-edge treatments. Our doctors recently pioneered Rituxan®, a vaccine that helps the body fight lymphoma. And we continue to research ways to improve your health and quality of life.
At MD Anderson's Lymphoma and Myeloma Center, you benefit from one of the most active research programs in the United States, which includes a prestigious federally funded SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program. This means we are able to offer a wide range of clinical trials (research studies) for every type and stage of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Life is beautiful. I am drinking it all in and savoring every little sip.
B-Cell Lymphoma Moon Shot
MD Anderson’s B-Cell Lymphoma Moon Shot® aims to rapidly and dramatically improve treatment outcomes for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients through powerful new treatment approaches and research.Learn more about the B-Cell Lymphoma Moon Shot
If it hadn’t been for my mom, I might not be here today.
I thought I was in remission in the spring of 2008. I’d already completed six rounds of chemotherapy for T-cell lymphoma — a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma — near my home in central Louisiana.
But my mother, a registered nurse, insisted I go to MD Anderson. She knew I might still need a stem cell transplant, and my local oncologist didn’t do those. She made an appointment for me at MD Anderson on March 24, 2008. I’m really glad now that I went.
Second opinion leads to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma re-diagnosis
I met with Issa Khouri, M.D., that day. Thanks to the advanced technology MD Anderson uses, we discovered that I wasn't in remission after all. I still had tumors in my chest and kidneys.
Dr. Khouri recommended I start chemotherapy immediately, in preparation for an allogeneic stem cell transplant. I followed his advice and had my transplant on Aug. 7, 2008. My immune system is still recovering, but I’ve been cancer-free ever since.
What makes MD Anderson superior
I really liked my local oncologist, and I’m grateful to him for keeping me alive. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d go to MD Anderson first.
From the moment I arrived here, I was amazed. Every single employee I encountered was professional and polite. And the sheer number of cancer patients that they treat on a daily basis gives them an advantage over smaller facilities.
But the quality of care I received at MD Anderson is what really separates it from other hospitals. The technology and treatment plans are advanced, extensive and impressive. And there’s a specialist for nearly every complication a patient could run into.
Amenities make the difference
MD Anderson provides so many things that made my visits comfortable, too.
Just the services offered (in-house pharmacies, physical therapy, religious facilities, eateries, coffee shops, libraries, care training, etc.) show that MD Anderson has thought of every possible aspect of dealing with cancer. I used The Learning Center a few times myself to do research.
The hospital rooms are spacious and comfortable. Meal quality far exceeds any hospital I’ve ever been in. And having the Rotary House right next door is such a plus. It’s so nice to be able to wake up and just take a shuttle to your appointments, instead of having to fight Houston traffic.
If any of my loved ones had cancer today, I would encourage them to go straight to Houston. MD Anderson is the “big guns.” They know what they are doing, and I’m so glad my mother sent me their way.
That old saying about mothers always being right is true. I’m so glad that I listened to mine.
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