Welcome to lymphoma-faq.org, your source for answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about hodgkin's and non-hodgkin's lymphoma. In these pages you'll find helpful and informative facts about adult and childhood lymphoma symptoms, causes, treatment, and more.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell (leukocyte) which is a critical part of your immune system. Lymphocytes attack foreign agents and help defend the body against disease and infections.
Like all cancers, lymphoma occurs when the lymphocytes cells mutate and grow in an uncontrolled manner. This leads to tumor formation (a mass of the abnormal cells) which often damages the surrounding organs and tissues due to oxygen/nutrient deprivation and physical space invasion.
The abnormal lymphocytes will spread across the body via the lymphatic system and collect in other lymph nodes and organs. Over time, the body’s ability to fight infections will be compromised, along with potential for interfering with the normal production of red blood cells and damage of other essential organs.
Lymphocytes circulate around the body in a white milky substance known as Lymph which is distributed through a network of vessels, organs, ducts, and nodes collectively called the Lymphatic System. The Lymphatic system includes bone barrow, spleen, tonsils, adenoids, thymus, lymph nodes, and parts of the stomach, skin, and small intestine.
- Lymph nodes are small, ball-like organs where white blood cells (lymphocytes) are stored. Lymph nodes’ key function is to act like a filter and capture/eliminate foreign bacteria, viruses, and dead tissue from the lymph fluid stream. Approximately five hundred to seven hundred lymph nodes are spread across your body. Clusters of lymph nodes can be found in the groin, abdomen, underarms, chest, stomach, and neck.
- Bone marrow is the soft, flexible tissue found inside large bones. There are two types of bone marrow: red marrow (medulla ossium rubra) and yellow marrow (medulla ossium flava). Red marrow produces red and white blood cells that play a critical role in the body’s immune system.
- The Spleen is an organ that filters and destroys old red blood cells, synthesizes antibodies, helps control the amount of blood in the body, and acts as an emergency reservoir of monocytes. The spleen is fist sized and located in the upper left abdomen.
- The Thymus is a small organ located between your breastbone and heart. Its main function is to “educate” immature T-cells and turn them into potent infection fighting agents that are able to recognize certain antigens.
- Tonsils and adenoids are lymphoidal tissue that produces lymphocytes and trap foreign bacteria as they enter the mouth and nose. Tonsils are located in the back of the throat while adenoids are located behind the nose and roof of the mouth and cannot be seen without special instruments.
Types of Lymphoma
Lymphoma is not a single disease, but rather a general term referring to a cancer of one of the many types of lymphocytes.
There are 2 main types of Lymphoma:
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (also called Hodgkin’s Disease)
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
While lymphomas fall into one of these 2 main categories, each type has many subtypes, each of which can behave in markedly different ways that impact treatment and prognosis. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has 5 subtypes and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has over 30 subtypes.
Classification of lymphoma is done via the WHO (World Health Organization) Classification scheme (2008) and is a complicated affair. The latest WHO system groups lymphomas by cell type (normal lymphocyte type), microscopic appearance features, and genetic/molecular markers.
Prevalence and Survival Rates
Lymphoma in aggregate is the most prevalent form of hematologic malignancy (blood cancer). The National Cancer Institute estimates roughly 5.3% of all cancers in the US are lymphoma.
Lymphoma can occur in anyone, but is most often seen either in young adults (16-44 years old) or in mature adults (>45 years old). Lymphoma is the 7th most prevalent cancer among adults and the 3rd most common cancer in children. Patients with compromised immune systems due to HIV or medications have a higher incidence of contracting lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the most prevalent form of lymphoma (>80%). In the US, approximately 65,000 new cases of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occur annually vs. 8,500 new cases for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is highly treatable. Greater than 75% of diagnosed patients can be cured and can expect to live at least 10 years after treatment.
Prognosis for patients diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma varies greatly depending on age, treatment type, disease stage, and cell type. In aggregate, 50-60% of patients are expected to survive 5 years or more after diagnosis.
Prognosis for children with lymphoma is up to 90% survival for both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s cases.