Diseases & Conditions


What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is what helps our immune system protect us from diseases and infection. This includes the lymph nodes, which store our disease-fighting white bloods cells, such as B-cells which make antibodies and T-cells which recognize and kill infected or unhealthy cells.

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common type, and usually affects older people (aged 60 to 80). Hodgkin lymphoma usually affects younger adults (aged 20 to 39) and older adults (aged 65 and older).

Lymphoma develops when one of our white blood cells within the lymph node, or in another area such as the spleen or bone marrow, changes into a cancer cell that then rapidly grows and doesn’t die.

Thanks to earlier diagnosis rates and the development of more effective treatments, survival rates for lymphoma are improving. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a high survival rate of almost 90% (survival rate is defined as the number of people who are still alive 5 years after diagnosis) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma has a survival rate of over 70%.

What are the Symptoms of Lymphoma?

The symptoms of lymphoma are often very similar to those of other illnesses. Always talk to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms that last for more than a few weeks:

  • A swelling of the lymph nodes (found in the armpit, neck, or groin) that isn’t painful.
  • Persistent tiredness
  • Itchy skin
  • Excessive night sweats
  • Weight loss which is unexplained
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath.

What are the Risk Factors for Lymphoma?

Doctors and researchers have identified several factors which may increase your risk of developing lymphoma:

  • A family history of lymphomas.
  • A personal history of infections, such as the Epstein-Barr (mononucleosis) or Kaposi sarcoma human immunodeficiency virus.
  • Chronic infections.
  • A compromised or weakened immune system due to illness or previous treatments.
  • Having an autoimmune disease.

How is Lymphoma Diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a range of tests to diagnose lymphoma. These might include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): This test measures the number of blood cells and can detect many illnesses.
  • Blood chemistry test: Measures the levels of substances within the blood.
  • Biopsy: Samples of tissues, cells, growth or fluids can be taken from the lymph nodes or other parts of the body to be examined closely in a lab.
  • Lumbar puncture: A very small needle is inserted into the spine to take a sample of cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: A small needle is inserted into the breastbone or pelvic bone to take a sample of marrow, which is located inside the bone.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: Provides a 3D image of your bones and soft tissues.
  • Positron emissions tomography (PET) scan: An injected radioactive tracer helps to show early signs of cancer.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and computer provide detailed images of the body.

How is Lymphoma Treated?

Treatment for lymphoma will depend on the type of lymphoma, but in general, treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy: Medication is given which kills cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: High doses of radiation energy are targeted at the cancer to kill it or to stop it from growing.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment uses your body’s own immune system to fight the cancer, by causing the body to produce more cancer-fighting cells or by helping normal cells to identify and kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: This treatment involves giving medications which target cancer cells but don’t harm healthy cells.
  • Bone marrow transplant: Stem cells from your bone marrow are transplanted to replace cancer cells with healthy blood cells.
  • CAR T-cell therapy: Your own white blood cells are used to kill cancer cells.

Today, the prognosis for lymphoma patients is generally very good. The Lymphoma Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides specialized care and support for people diagnosed with lymphoma, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and others.

Click here to learn more.

© Copyright 2017 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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