About Lymphoma

Types of Lymphoma

There are two major groups of lymphomas — Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin disease) and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) — and both groups cover many subtypes. The main difference between the two categories is that a particular type of abnormal cell, the Reed-Sternberg cell, is present only in Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas do not have these distinctive cells.

  • Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed in approximately 9,060 people in the United States each year.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is the most common type of lymphoma, affects even more people. Each year, more than 70,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with some form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There are more than 30 different subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They are generally grouped into:
    • T-cell lymphomas: About 15 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas in the U.S. are T-cell lymphomas. This group includes many subtypes, including some so rare that they account for just a few new diagnoses worldwide every year. These types are most common:
      • Peripheral T-cell lymphoma not otherwise specified (PTCL-NOS): About 25 percent of all T-cell lymphomas are in this category.
      • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma: About 12-15 percent of adult T-cell lymphomas fall into this group, which includes several subtypes.
      • Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma: Between 15 and 18 percent of all T-cell lymphomas in the U.S. are angioimmunoblastic lymphomas, which grow quickly.
      • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: This group includes several subtypes. Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas grow slowly and make up about 2-3 percent of all cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
    • B-cell lymphomas
      • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) – This is the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults: about 30-35 percent of people with NHL have DLBCL. There are several subtypes of DLBCL.
      • Follicular lymphoma – This accounts for about 30 percent of all NHL cases.
      • Mantle cell lymphoma – About 5 percent of patients have this NHL subtype.

Subtypes of Lymphoma

There are more than 60 different subtypes of lymphoma, which involves a specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are two types of lymphocytes:

  • B-cells: B-cells mature into plasma cells, which make antibodies that fight disease.
  • T-cells: There are several types of T-cells, each with a unique function. Some T-cells can directly destroy certain kinds of bacteria or cells infected with viruses or fungi. Other types of T-cells play a role in either boosting or slowing the activity of other immune system cells.

Lymphocytes are found in a clear fluid called lymph. They are carried through lymph vessels into all tissues of the body, through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system 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 located 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 produce lymphocytes.
  • Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue in the center of large bones. Bone marrow produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Symptoms of Lymphoma

If you have lymphoma, you may have one or more — or none — of the following symptoms:

  • Swollen lymph nodes that usually don't hurt (especially lymph nodes in the neck or armpit)
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Chronic fevers without any known infection
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Unexplained weight loss