A lymphocyte is a type of immune cell made in the bone marrow that moves into the lymph system where it fights foreign bodies like bacteria and viruses. B-cells primarily help fight off infections. T-cell lymphocytes are the other type of cell where about 10% of non-Hodgkin lymphomas start. The T-cells help the B-cells make antibodies.
The subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are based on which type of cell the lymphoma started in, how the lymphoma cells look, their genetic makeup, and whether there are proteins present on the surface of the cells. The two most common subtypes are
Because lymphatic tissue is in many parts of the body, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere but is usually first found in a lymph node.
Lymphomas are grouped by how quickly they are likely to grow:
Because lymphoma affects the lymph system, swollen lymph nodes that don’t go back to normal on their own is a common symptom. But there are other warning signs and symptoms too, depending on both the type and location of the disease.
Staging of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is different from most other cancer stages. The Lugano Classification System is the most common way of staging NHL today. This includes Stages I-IV as well as an indication of whether the lymphoma has affected an organ that’s outside of the lymph system. For these patients, the letter E is added to their stage note there is “extranodal organ involvement.”
Not every lymphoma patient needs to begin treatment immediately. When the time is right to start treatment one or more therapies commonly used for lymphomas may be recommended including: chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and/or radiation therapy. Bone marrow transplants are also a treatment option for some patients.