Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

What is Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma?

Happy FamilyNon-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer in the lymphatic system. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 70,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2018.

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually causing tumors to grow and can spread to other organs.

Risk factors for developing lymphoma are unknown. However, doctors believe immune system problems as well as age may increase a person's chance of developing this disease.


Lymphoma is not just one disease, it is more than 30 types of cancer that act differently and may need special treatment.  

To see if you have lymphoma and what kind it is, your doctor may order some or all of the following tests.

  • Blood tests to evaluate a variety of factors, including the number of blood cells in your blood and how well your liver and kidneys are working.
  • Lymph node biopsy, your doctor will perform surgery to take out a lymph node. It will then be examined under a microscope to look for cancer.
  • Bone marrow biopsy may help determine if lymphoma has spread to that part of the body.
  • Other tests may include X-rays or CT, PET or MRI scans. 

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of lymphoma are general and may also be associated with other, noncancerous conditions. Talk to your doctor about any of these problems:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, underarm or groin
  • Unexplained fevers
  • Unexplained pain in the chest, abdomen, pelvis or bones
  • Unexplained weight loss

*Unexplained fevers, night sweats and weight loss are known as “B” symptoms. Ask your doctor about their significance in your case.


Treatment options depend on the type of lymphoma you have, the stage of the lymphoma and your overall health. Treatment may include radiation therapy or chemotherapy, either alone or in combination. Other treatments include watchful waiting and biologic therapy.