Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also called NHL) can occur at any age and are often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss. There are multiple types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These types can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing) types, and they can be formed from either B-cells or T-cells. B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include Burkitt's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma. T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Lymphomas that occur after bone marrow or stem cell transplantation are usually B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and type of disease.

 

Stages of Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma:

 

Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma may be described as follows:

  • E: "E" stands for extranodal and means the cancer is found in an area or organ other than the lymph nodes or has spread to tissues beyond, but near, the major lymphatic areas.
  • S: "S" stands for spleen and means the cancer is found in the spleen.

 

The following stages are used for adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

 

Stage I

Stage I adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into stage I and stage IE.

  • Stage I: Cancer is found in one lymphatic area (lymph node group, tonsils and nearby tissue, thymus, or spleen).
  • Stage IE: Cancer is found in one organ or area outside the lymph nodes.

Stage II

Stage II adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into stage II and stage IIE.

  • Stage II: Cancer is found in two or more lymph node groups either above or below the diaphragm (the thin muscle below the lungs that helps breathing and separates the chest from the abdomen).
  • Stage IIE: Cancer is found in one or more lymph node groups either above or below the diaphragm. Cancer is also found outside the lymph nodes in one organ or area on the same side of the diaphragm as the affected lymph nodes.

Stage III

Stage III adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into stage III, stage IIIE, stage IIIS, and stage IIIE+S.

  • Stage III: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm (the thin muscle below the lungs that helps breathing and separates the chest from the abdomen).
  • Stage IIIE: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm and outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ or area.
  • Stage IIIS: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm, and in the spleen.
  • Stage IIIE+S: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm, outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ or area, and in the spleen.

Stage IV

In stage IV adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer:

  • is found throughout one or more organs that are not part of a lymphatic area (lymph node group, tonsils and nearby tissue, thymus, or spleen), and may be in lymph nodes near those organs; or
  • is found in one organ that is not part of a lymphatic area and has spread to organs or lymph nodes far away from that organ; or
  • is found in the liver, bone marrow, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or lungs (other than cancer that has spread to the lungs from nearby areas).

 

Adult non-Hodgkin lymphomas are also described in terms of how fast they grow and the location of affected lymph nodes.

 

Indolent or aggressive:

  • Indolent lymphomas: These tend to grow and spread slowly and have few symptoms.
  • Aggressive lymphomas: These grow and spread quickly and have severe symptoms. Lymphoblastic lymphoma, diffuse small noncleaved cell lymphoma/Burkitt lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma are 3 types of aggressive adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Aggressive lymphomas are seen more often in patients who are HIV -positive (AIDS -related lymphoma).

Contiguous or noncontiguous:

  • Contiguous lymphomas: Lymphomas in which the lymph nodes containing cancer are next to each other.
  • Noncontiguous lymphomas: Lymphomas in which the lymph nodes containing cancer are not next to each other, but are on the same side of the diaphragm.

 

Treatment of Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma:

 

Different types of treatment are available for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Search for clinical trials in Georgia.

For pregnant women with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, treatment is carefully chosen to protect the fetus. Treatment decisions are based on the mother’s wishes, the stage of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the age of the fetus. The treatment plan may change as the symptoms, cancer, and pregnancy change. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a decision that ideally involves the patient, family, and health care team.

 

Four types of standard treatment are used:

 

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Watchful waiting

 

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

 

Vaccine therapy

Vaccine therapy is a type of biologic therapy. Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy. Vaccine therapy can also be a type of targeted therapy.

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is a method of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood -forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's PDQ Database: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/non-hodgkin. (Accessed July 2016)