Overview Adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lymph system.
The lymph system is part of the immune system and is made up of the following:
• Lymph: Colorless, watery fluid that travels through the lymph system and carries white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes protect the body against infections and the growth of tumors. • Lymph vessels: A network of thin tubes that collect lymph from different parts of the body and return it to the bloodstream. • Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped structures that filter lymph and store white blood cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are located along the network of lymph vessels found throughout the body. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarm, pelvis, neck, abdomen, and groin. • Spleen: An organ that makes lymphocytes, filters the blood, stores blood cells, and destroys old blood cells. It is on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach. • Thymus: An organ in which lymphocytes grow and multiply. The thymus is in the chest behind the breastbone. • Tonsils: Two small masses of lymph tissue at the back of the throat. The tonsils make lymphocytes. • Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue in the center of large bones. Bone marrow makes white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
Because lymph tissue is found throughout the body, adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can begin in almost any part of the body. Cancer can spread to the liver and many other organs and tissues.
Symptoms These and other symptoms may be caused by adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Consult a doctor if any of the following problems occur:
• Painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, groin, or stomach. • Fever for no known reason. • Drenching night sweats. • Feeling very tired. • Weight loss for no known reason. • Skin rash or itchy skin. • Pain in the chest, abdomen, or bones for no known reason.
Treatment The type of treatment selected will depend upon cancer stage as well as your general health. Four types of treatment are commonly used for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and watchful waiting.