Health Encyclopedia

What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a name for a group of cancers of the lymphatic system, part of the body's immune defense system. It can occur when an error takes place in the way a lymphocyte is produced. The resulting abnormal cells accumulate either by duplicating faster or living longer than normal cells, and they displace normal lymphocytes.

Like normal lymphocytes, cancerous lymphocytes can grow in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow or blood. Because there is lymph tissue throughout the body, the cancer cells may spread to other organs. More about the anatomy of the lymphatic system

Types of Lymphoma

There are a number of different forms of lymphoma, whose symptoms, rate of spread, pattern of spread and treatment vary.

The two main types of cancer of the lymphatic system are:

Over the years, different classification systems have been used to differentiate lymphomas and several groups around the world are continuing to work on the best way to classify the various subtypes. Depending on the classification system being used, there are between 4 to 6 classes of HD and anywhere from 15 to over 30 classes of NHL.

The simplest way to think of Lymphoma is to look at:

  • Whether it arises from a B- or T-cell lymphocyte (90% of lymphomas are of B-cell origin)
  • Whether it is a slow progressing lymphoma (indolent) or a fast progressing lymphoma (aggressive)

All Hodgkin’s Disease lymphomas are B-Cell lymphomas, so they can be further classified by “classic” or "lymphocyte predominant” HD.

* All Hodgkin's Disease lymphomas are B-Cell malignancies
** There are over 30 different NHL subtypes, classified by a combination of the two categories described

Incidence of Lymphoma

Lymphoma accounts for about 3 percent of all cases of cancer in the United States. Unfortunately, while the incidence rate of many other cancers is decreasing, the incidence rate for lymphoma is rising.

Each year, 60,900 persons in the United States learn they have lymphoma. This figure includes approximately 7,000 new cases of Hodgkin’s Disease (HD) and 53,900 new cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).

Facts About Lymphoma

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a much larger percentage of all lymphoma cases than Hodgkin’s Disease
  • The pattern by age group varies for Hodgkin’s Disease vs. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • The incidence of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma increases dramatically with age
  • Hodgkin’s Disease peaks among young adults (people in their mid-20s), falls to less than half that rate in middle age and increases infrequency in older adults

Treatment for Lymphoma

If you've been diagnosed with lymphoma, know that at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, you are in good hands. Our lymphoma programprovides a wide variety of treatment approaches for patients with lymphoma and other lymphatic diseases.