Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is cancer of the lymph system. In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, cells in the lymph system divide and grow without order or control, or old cells do not die as cells normally do.
Lymphomas are cancerous tumors that can form in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Lymphomas are either Hodgkin’s lymphomas or non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. Hodgkin’s lymphomas have a type of cell called Reed-Sternberg cells. Lymphomas without these cells are non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can start almost anywhere in the body. It may occur in a single lymph node, a group of lymph nodes, or an organ such as the spleen. NHL can spread to almost any part of the body, including the liver, bone marrow, and spleen.
The incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has increased over the years, but experts don’t know what causes NHL. The abnormal cell growth that happens with NHL may be linked to infections, exposure to something in the environment, or to a problem with the immune system. NHL is not contagious.
The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin. Other symptoms may include unexplained fever; night sweats; fatigue; weight loss; and red, itchy patches on the skin.
The chances of cure with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma depend on the stage of the cancer and what the cells look like under the microscope (histology) when the lymphoma is diagnosed. NHL is often treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
Last Revised: March 29, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
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