What is Lymphoma?

What is Lymphoma
Lymph node schematic

Lymphoma is a general term for cancer in the lymph system. The lymph system is made up of many cells and organs, including the lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen, and liver. This system produces B-Cells and T-Cells, which make up your body’s immune system. Since these cells travel between the lymphatic system and circulatory system while fighting infections and viruses, lymphomas are blood-related cancers.


There are two main categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin’s lymphoma (aka Hodgkin’s disease or Hodgkin lymphoma) and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL). Hodgkin’s disease is a very specific type of cancer that involves a mutation in Reed-Sternberg cells.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas involve mutations in the body’s B-Cells and T-Cells. B-Cell Lymphomas account for over 80% of all NHL. T-Cell Lymphomas make up the rest.


Unfortunately, lymphoma doesn’t have many identifying symptoms; those that exist are also indicators for other, more common diseases. For example, typical lymphoma symptoms include:

  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin; usually painless
  • fever and/or night sweats
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue
  • chest pain
  • loss of appetite is less common symptom of some more aggressive lymphomas of the GI tract


According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

  • About 139,860 people living in the United States will be diagnosed with lymphoma, leukemia, or myeloma in 2009. This accounts for 9.5% of expected cancer diagnoses.
  • 12.2 out of every 100,000 people in the world will be diagnosed with leukemia.
  • 19.5 out of every 100,000 people in the world will be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
  • 2.8 out of every 100,000 people in the world will be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease.
  • The mortality rate of leukemia and lymphoma has decreased as the survival rate increased due to improved treatments.

Other common statistics reflect that:

  • Males are typically affected more than females.
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is more common in younger patients than other types of lymphoma.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas are more prevalent in patients over 50.

In summary, lymphoma of any type is a systemic disease. It is treatable with generally high survival rates but the road to diagnosis, prognosis and recovery will take time and patience. We hope that these pages can help you along the way.

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