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Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Treatment for Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at GenesisCare

Non-Hodgkin (or non-Hodgkin’s) lymphoma (NHL) starts in the white blood cells (lymphocytes).

Chapter 01

What is Non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

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)
Chapter 02


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.

Chapter 03

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
Chapter 04

Treatments we offer

Radiation therapy

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.

There are many ways to have radiation therapy but they all work in a similar way. Carefully controlled high-energy X-rays destroy or damage cancer cells. This stops them growing or spreading.

Radiation therapy is usually delivered in daily intervals called ‘fractions’. This allows time between treatments for the healthy cells to repair and the cancer cells to die off.


Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Chapter 05

Helpful resources

We understand that you may still have some unanswered questions, and we’re here to help you in any way we can. But if you are still seeking answers visit Targeting Cancer for further information about this condition or contact a staff member from a centre near you.

Any procedure including treatments involving radiation carry risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Before proceeding with a referral for treatment, patients should be advised to seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. As in any medical procedure, patient experiences and outcomes will vary.