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Learn more about types of lymphoma and treatment options at Baptist Cancer Center.

Lymphoma Explained

Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer. It affects the body’s lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that defends against bacteria and viruses. Lymphomas typically develop because a change or mutation occurs inside a lymphocyte. When a lymphocyte develops cancer, it can travel through the blood and spread to other areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, skin and many other organs.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, it accounts for about 4% of all cancers in the United States.

Lymphoma Treatment Options

When a person has symptoms of lymphoma, the next step is lymphoma diagnosis and treatment. Typically, doctors will perform several exams and tests, including:

  • Physical exam and medical history
  • Biopsies
  • Lab tests of biopsy results (may include an immunohistochemistry, which looks for certain proteins that may point to lymphoma)
  • Imaging tests (chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, PET scan or bone scan)
  • Blood tests
  • Heart and lung tests

Surgery is rarely used to treat lymphoma. Depending on the stage and type of lymphoma, your doctor may suggest:

The Different Types of Lymphoma

There are two main types of lymphomas. They spread and behave differently, and they require different types of treatment. It’s important to understand which type of lymphoma you have.

Hodgkin lymphoma

An uncommon form of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma involves Reed-Sternberg cells. In the United States, about 9,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. While it can start anywhere, it commonly starts in lymph nodes in the chest, neck or under arms, and spreads through lymph vessels.

There are six types of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL):

  • Classic Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Lymphomas that do not involve Reed-Sternberg cells are classified as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). There are more than 90 types of the disease, which affects approximately 80,000 people each year in the United States. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes all skin lymphomas. Indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma tends to grow and spread slowly, while aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma needs to be treated right away.

  • Common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLDCL)
  • Follicular lymphoma
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) / Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL)
  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)
  • Marginal zone lymphomas
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
  • Hairy cell leukemia
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma (CNS)
  • Peripheral T-cell lymphomas
  • Precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia

Learn the Symptoms and Causes

Recognizing the signs of lymphoma allows for timely intervention, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment and improving your quality of life.

What are lymphoma causes and risk factors?

Researchers have determined that while there are few known risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing lymphoma, there is no definitive reason as to why they do. Having a risk factor does not mean that you are certain to develop the disease, and many people with lymphoma have few or no known risk factors. These include:

  • Age as most diagnoses occur in early (20s) or late (55+) adulthood
  • Sex
  • Family history
  • Previous Epstein-Barr virus infection/mononucleosis

Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

In addition to the above, there are a number of risk factors linked specifically to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, including:
  • Race and ethnicity as the disease is more prevalent among African Americans and Asian Americans
  • Exposure to certain chemicals including benzene, herbicides and insecticides
  • Weakened immune system
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and others
  • Obesity
  • Radiation exposure
  • Breast implants

What are signs and symptoms of lymphoma?

Certain lymphoma signs and symptoms are similar to other illnesses such as the cold, flu or respiratory infections. Most people with these symptoms will not have lymphoma. Visit with your doctor if you have questions about symptoms you are experiencing.

Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms may include:

  • Lumps under the skin
  • Fever
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Sweating (night sweats)
  • Itching
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing or chest pain

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms may include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Sweating and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Itchy red or purple lumps under the skin
  • Headache, trouble thinking or seizures
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Connect With a Patient Navigator

As a patient at Baptist Cancer Center, you will have access to a dedicated patient navigator who will act as your advocate and liaison between you and your health care teams. Our patient navigators are available at every step to schedule appointments, answer questions, explain the treatment process, and provide resources, education and support when you and your family need it.