Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma


What is it?

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphoid system. The lymphoid system is an important part of the immune system which helps the body to fight against infections. There are many types of NHL depending on which part of the immune system is affected, most commonly it is specifically B-cell type. Cancer is a result of uncontrolled cell growth so that too many cells are made and they are produced in an unorganised manner.


What is the difference between Hogkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

The diseases are similar, the major difference is the appearance of the cells under the microscope and which specific cells are affected. The treatments and prognosis are different for the two diseases.


Who gets it?

It is a disease that becomes more common the older people get and is slightly more common in females.


What are the symptoms?

As there are many different types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma the symptoms can vary widely. Sometime the disease causes little symptoms. Other forms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can cause many noticeable symptoms such as neck lumps, drenching night sweats, weight loss and fevers.


How is it diagnosed?

As the lymphoid system is located throughout the body the disease can be found in many different parts of the body. Therefore several different tests are required.

Initial blood tests are useful but to make the diagnosis a lymph node biopsy of any neck lumps is needed. A biopsy can be taken from other areas if required. This enables cells to be looked at under the microscope to determine which type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma is present. A bone marrow biopsy also provides information to help assess the extent of the disease.

Patients also need a CT scan of their chest and abdomen, again this helps to find out how much of the lymphoid system is affected.


How is it treated?

The main form of treatment is with chemotherapy, occasionally a stem cell transplant is needed if the chemotherapy is unsuccessful.


Further information

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at Macmillian cancer support

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at NHS choices



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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