Written by Markus MacGill,
Reviewed by Dr Helen Webberley
Last updated: Mon 10 August 2015
Lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the immune system – specifically, it is a cancer of immune cells called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. There are two broad types of lymphoma and many subtypes.
The two types of lymphoma are described as: Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s.
Lymphoma can occur at any age but is the most common cancer in young people. It is often very treatable, and most people live for a long time after being diagnosed.
Use this page for comprehensive and easy-to-follow information about lymphoma – both non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Contents of this article:
What is lymphoma?
Types of lymphoma?
What causes lymphoma?
Signs and symptoms
Tests and diagnosis
Treatment and prevention
Prognosis for lymphoma
You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT’s news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.
Here are some key points about lymphoma. More detail and supporting information is in the body of this article.
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph system (or lymphatic system), which is part of our immunity. It is characterized by the formation of solid tumors in the immune system. The cancer affects immune cells called lymphocytes, which are white blood cells.
Statistics from the US National Cancer Institute estimate that there are nearly 20 cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for every 100,000 people in the American population.2
Hodgkin’s lymphoma, meanwhile, is relatively rare, with around three cases in every 100,000 people.3
About 90% of lymphomas are the non-Hodgkin’s type while about 10% are Hodgkin’s.1
Cancer is a group of over 100 diseases, all of which start with the growth of abnormal cells. Instead of dying in the normal cell life cycle, cancerous cells continue to divide into new abnormal cells, and grow out of control.4
Lymphatic cancers are classified by the type of immune cells affected.
In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, B-cells and T-cells are affected – both being types of lymphocyte white blood cell with special roles in immunity. In the US, B-cell lymphomas are much more common than T-cell ones.5
In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the cancer cells are usually an abnormal type of B lymphocyte, named Reed-Sternberg cells. There are many subtypes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, typed by differences seen under the microscope – but a very high percentage of cases are classed as “classic” Hodgkin’s