What Is the Prognosis for Lymphoma?

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In determining what is the prognosis for lymphoma, it is crucial to first identify which specific lymphoma the patient has. There are, for example 30 types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and five types of Hodgkin's disease, each with their own progression profile and prognostic outlook. As a very general rule of thumb, Hodgkin lymphomas tend to have higher survival rates, but again, there are a number of other factors that go into that determination.


One major classification scheme for prognostic purposes is whether the lymphoma is indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). The traditional viewpoint is that aggressive cancers are harder to treat because they spread much more easily and quickly to other areas of the body. However, there is a growing movement in oncology the argues that indolent cancers are harder to "cure" than certain fast-growing B-cell lymphomas. The reasoning is that fast-dividing cancer cells are less like the body's own cells, and so are more easily targeted by chemotherapy agents. Also, treating indolent cells is more likely to involve neighboring healthy cells.

Staging and Spread

Lymphoma tends to be graded (staged) on its spread within the body and assigned a number on a scale of I (1) to IV (4). Stage I cancers are easiest to treat and have the best outlook for survival, but it is uncommon to find lymphoma this early because it is an internal cancer. At the other end, stage IV lymphomas have fairly poor prognoses.


Some lymphomas can be staged more precisely by giving them a number, and then narrowing it down within that stage based on the presence or absence of certain symptoms. These so-called b-lymphoma symptoms are things like night sweats, fever and weight loss, and indicate the cancer is more serious than it would be in a person at the same stage but without noticeable signs.

Age and Sex

The prognosis for lymphoma in younger people is better than in older people. Whenever you see a survival rate of 95 percent, it tends to be among a young, otherwise healthy population.

Women generally have higher survival rates and more positive prognoses than men.

Patient Health

An oncologist may or may not take a patient's current health into account when providing a formal prognosis, but statistically, healthier individuals have higher survival rates for cancer than less healthy ones. Because your immune system can be compromised by both chemotherapy and the cancer itself, starting out healthy gives a person a head start.

When you ask your doctor what is the prognosis for lymphoma, she will walk you through all of the above distinctions and be able to provide (sometimes very precise) estimate of survival rates in your situation.

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