Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Facts
Lymphoma is cancer that begins in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue. Lymphoma is caused when something goes wrong inside the lymphocytes so they don't mature to completion and don't die off like they should, but instead collect in the lymph nodes.
There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). The main difference between the two is the specific lymphocyte involved. Hodgkin's lymphoma involves Reed-Sternberg cancer cells. If Reed-Sternberg cells are not present, the lymphoma is classified as NHL.
What is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
NHL most often starts in the lymph nodes in the upper part of the body, in the neck or chest, or under the arms. It can spread through the lymph system to lymph nodes and outside the lymph nodes to the bone marrow, lungs, or liver.
NHL is one of the most common cancers in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 70,000 people--adults and children--will be diagnosed and nearly 19,000 people will die from NHL in 2012.
There are many types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The two major subtypes are B cell lymphomas and T cell lymphomas.
B cel l lymphomas are much more common than T cell lymphomas, except in lymphomas of the skin: cutaneous lymphomas.
To understand lymphoma, it helps to have a basic knowledge of the lymph system.
The lymphatic (lymph) system
The lymph system is a a network of tubes that slowly carries fluid (lymph) from your tissues back into your blood to be recycled. It has several parts:
Lymph nodes, small bean-shaped organs that are part of the immune system and linked by lymphatic vessels. Lymph nodes store lymphocytes and act as filters to trap foreign particles. Lymph nodes are located throughout your body in your neck, underarms, groin, and behind your knees. They are also deeper inside your body in your chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
Lymphatic vessels, small tubes that carry a clear fluid (lymph) away from the lungs.
Lymph, fluid that circulates through the lymph system. It carries excess fluid and waste products from body tissues, as well as immune system cells.
Lymph tissue, includes lymph nodes and organs related to the immune and blood-forming systems, such as the spleen, thymus, and bone marrow.
Types of lymphocytes
There are several types of lymphocytes:
B lymphocytes, or B cells. These make antibodies. Antibodies attach to bacteria and to cells infected with a virus or bacteria so that other immune cells recognize them and know to destroy them.
T lymphocytes, or T cell: There are many kinds of T cells. They are involved in destroying invaders or tumor cells or in attracting or stimulating other immune cells to do this.
Natural killer cells: These scout for cells that do not look normal and destroy them.
Here is some information about the symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and how it is diagnosed.
Here is some information about the types, stages and risk factors of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.