What is Non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin (or non-Hodgkin’s) lymphoma (NHL) starts in the white blood cells (lymphocytes). White blood cells are part of the immune system. They help fight infection. NHL means they develop in abnormal ways. This stops the white blood cells being able to protect the body from diseases.
NHL is an unusual cancer but it’s more common in men aged over 65. Different types of NHL begin in various parts of the body. They grow and spread in different ways. They include:
- Indolent lymphomas: these grow and spread slowly
- Aggressive lymphomas: these grow and spread quickly
Causes of NHL
Although no one is sure exactly what causes NHL it’s more likely if:
- A close relative has NHL
- You already have a condition that makes your immune system weaker
- You have been prescribed immunosuppressant medicine
- You have HIV
- You’ve had an organ transplant
- You’ve had cancer treatment
- You’ve had the Epstein-Barr virus in the past (which causes glandular fever)
Symptoms of NHL
Most people have a painless lump that develops in a lymph node (gland). This is usually in the armpit, groin or neck. Other signs include:
A high temperature (fever)
A nagging cough, or breathlessness
Feeling very tired
Having a swollen abdomen (tummy)
Unexplained weight loss
Itchy skin all over the body
Sweating at night
Unexplained weight loss
Some people may also experience heavy bleeding such as nosebleeds, or blood spots under the skin.
Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.
Tests and diagnosis
After discussing your symptoms and any family history of NHL, your doctor will arrange for a blood test to check for infections or other conditions. To confirm that you have NHL, your doctor will arrange for you to have a bone marrow biopsy. This is when a tiny sample of tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. You may also have:
- Chest X-ray to check for enlarged lymph nodes
- Scans including CT, MRI and PET
- Lumbar puncture
Treatments we offer
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.