Childhood Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

sick child

The third most common childhood cancer is lymphoma; it accounts for 10% of all childhood cancer diagnoses. Of these diagnoses, about 60% are Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas. Children are vulnerable to the same types of lymphoma as adults. Although diagnosis of lymphoma in a child is especially traumatic for everyone involved, it must be remembered that younger patients generally have higher recovery rates than adults. This page briefly outlines non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; please use the numerous hyperlinks for more in depth information.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) is a cancerous growth of B-cells or T-cells in the lymphatic system. There are four main types that occur in children:

[More on childhood NHL statistics from ACS]

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Lymphomas present a wide range of symptoms, all of which can indicate less severe conditions. However, if you or your child exhibits several of these symptoms, an appointment with a doctor would be wise.

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin. Swelling is usually painless.
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath

A diagnosis is made after several tests are conducted, including:

  • Physical examination
  • Chest X-ray
  • Biopsy of a Lymph Node
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy
  • CT Scan
  • Blood Tests
  • Ultrasound

Staging

The general staging rules for NHL are:

Stage I
Involvement of one lymph node group or one area outside the lymph nodes
Stage II
There are two groups of lymph nodes involved on the same side of the diaphragm, or there is one lymph group and one non-lymphatic organ involved. Alternatively, if the lymphoma started in the stomach it is considered Stage II.
Stage III
Tumors occur in lymph groups on both sides of the diaphragm, or began in the chest or abdomen. Also, if the tumors occur around the spine, it is considered Stage III.
Stage IV
This stage is categorized by the involvement of the bone marrow or brain.

Treatments

Typical NHL treatments include

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Stem Cell Transplant
  • Clinical Trials
  • Monoclonal antibodies, such as Rituxan

Late Effects

After treatment, a child's health may still be affected by health problems that show up after cancer treatment (sometimes years later). These are known as a "late effects." For this reason, your child's health must be closely monitored throughout the remainder of their lives. For more information, see the American Cancer Society's Childhood Cancer: Late Effects of Cancer Treatment.

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