Lymphoma, in general terms, refers to the type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. It is the most common type of blood cancer that starts in our lymphocyte, a type of white blood cell that is part of our immune system (germ-fighting work). 

Read the blog till the end to know all about Lymphoma…

Types of Lymphoma

There are two main types of lymphoma: non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. However, there are several other subtypes that fall into these two major groups:

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL): It is the most prevalent type of lymphoma and accounts for 90% of lymphomas that have been identified. It is the seventh most prevalent cancer and the sixth most deadly malignancy. B-cell lymphomas and T-cell lymphomas are the two other classifications for non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Hodgkin Lymphoma: It is a rare malignancy and occurs in only 10% of the patients diagnosed with lymphoma. Doctors will diagnose Hodgkin if the patient has developed mutant abnormal lymphocyte cells known as Reed-Sternberg cells. Compared to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma affects younger persons more commonly.

Symptoms of Lymphoma

The most common symptom of most types of lymphoma is enlarged or swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin (usually without discomfort). Some additional lymphoma warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats (drenching)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Constant tiredness and lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unaccounted weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rashes accompanied by severe itching 

Many of these symptoms can also be indicators of other diseases. Consult your doctor to find out if you have lymphoma.

Causes of Lymphoma

Scientists don't know the cause of the high incidence of lymphoma in most cases. But it starts when a genetic mutation occurs in a lymphocyte, a kind of white blood cell that fights infection. The mutation that happens inside a lymphocyte’s DNA instructs the cell to divide quickly, producing plenty of sick lymphocytes that keep reproducing.

Additionally, the cells can continue to exist while other normal cells would have died due to the mutation. This causes the lymph nodes, spleen, and liver to enlarge. Also, excessive number of sick and inefficient lymphocytes tend to accumulate in the lymph nodes.

Risk Factors of Lymphoma

The precise cause of the high incidence of lymphoma patients is yet unknown. The likelihood that it will manifest depends on some risk factors that increase your chance of developing any type of lymphoma:

  • In men
  • In the Caucasian
  • Hodgkin lymphoma occurs between the ages of 15 and 40 while non-Hodgkin is common to older people
  • People with low immune system
  • People with some illnesses, such as HIV, hepatitis C, or the Epstein-Barr virus, or some bacterial infections 
  • People with autoimmune conditions
  • People with a history of exposure to high levels of industrial chemicals or pesticides
  • In those who have a family history of lymphoma

Diagnosis of Lymphoma

In order to identify or treat lymphoma, your doctor can prescribe the following tests:

  • Physical examination: A physical exam would involve a check for swollen or enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Blood testing: To check on white and red blood cell count.
  • Bone marrow biopsy or aspiration: To check for lymphoma cells, your doctor uses a needle to take fluid or tissue from your bone marrow - the spongy area inside your bones where blood cells are formed.
  • Chest X-ray: Images of the inside of your chest will be created using modest amounts of radiation.
  • MRI: A technician will create images of the organs and structures within your body using strong magnets and radio waves.
  • PET scan: This imaging test uses a radioactive substance to look for cancer cells in your body.
  • Molecular test: This test is used to find changes to genes, proteins, and other substances in cancer cells to help your doctor figure out which type of lymphoma you have.

Treatment of Lymphoma

There are various methods of treatment available, based on the type of lymphoma and its stage:

  • Chemotherapy, which utilizes drugs to destroy cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy, which utilizes high-energy rays to kill cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy, which targets cancer cells using the immune system of your body
  • Stem cell (bone marrow) transplantation: Replacement of bone marrow with healthy cells from one’s own body or from a donor

The Survival Rate of Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma prognosis shows that 96% to 99% of people diagnosed with the early-stage Hodgkin lymphomas were still living five years after their diagnoses. Five years following diagnosis, between 56% and 89% of those with the condition's final stages were still alive.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma prognosis show that 73% percent of people with this type may live up to five years after their diagnoses.

When to See a Doctor?

If you are concerned about any persistent signs or symptoms of lymphoma that returns or get worse or you notice a change that isn’t normal for you, schedule a visit with your doctor. If you’re living with a lymphoma, ask your healthcare provider about clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.


Lymphoma is a cancer of a specific type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes. The cancerous white blood cells do not function like normal white blood cells so they cannot help the body fight off infections. There are two broad categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are more common than Hodgkin lymphoma. The lymphoma treatment involves the use of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy or their combination. 

If you have any questions about lymphoma, you can consult an Oncologist at Ask a doctor, 24x7.

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Disclaimer: Information provided on this page is not intended to substitute for proper medical advice provided by your healthcare professional. This is only for informational purposes

About the Author

Dr. Vaishalee Punj

Dr Vaishalee is a general physician with experience of more than 16 years. She has done MD in Clinical Pharmacology that equips her with better knowledge of medicines and how to apply this knowledge for a clinical case. She has satisfactorily assisted many people in her clinic and on with better management of their health conditions. Dr Vaishalee is here to guide you and to help you you to live well with your health conditions.

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