Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system (disease-fighting network throughout the body) and generally presents in the lymph nodes. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma tumors develop from lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can also spread to other parts of the lymphatic system including lymphatic vessels, tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus and bone marrow. Moreover, the disease can sometimes affect organs outside of the lymphatic system.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma and there are many subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The most common ones include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma.
Symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs when the body produces an excess amount of abnormal lymphocytes (type of white blood cell) but the exact cause of the disease is undetermined.
In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma the lymphocytes grow and divide continuously without dying. The large accumulation of lymphocytes causes the lymph nodes to swell.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can begin in the B cells and T cells:
- B cells: B cells produce antibodies to fight off infections. Most cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma begin in the B cells. Subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that involve B cells include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma and Burkitt lymphoma.
- T cells: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs less frequently in T cells, which kill foreign invaders directly. Subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that involve T cells include peripheral T-cell lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
Whether the disease arises from the B cells or T cells can determine the course of treatment.
Some factors that may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:
- Medications that suppress the immune system
- Infection with certain viruses and bacteria (HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, Helicobacter pylori)
- Chemicals (pesticides)
- Older age