Cancer that forms in lymphatic system affects ability to fight infection

There are two main forms of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin is the more common form. It begins in the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell (often B cells), which are key in fighting disease and infection. Abnormal lymphocytic cell growth causes tumor formation and also crowds out normal cells needed to fight infection.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes several sub-types, such as large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Risk factors, symptoms and diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

People most at risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma include people who have weakened immune systems, such as from HIV, as well as people who have handled or been around chemicals, such as those used to kill weeds, for long periods of time. Other risk factors include having been infected with certain bacteria or viruses, including Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and Epstein-Barr virus.

Symptoms commonly include painless, swollen lymph nodes, usually in the armpit, neck or groin. You may also experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating or fullness (because of enlarged spleen)
  • Fatigue
  • Itching or rash
  • Night sweats

Unexplained weight loss may also indicate non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

To diagnose your condition your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and perform a complete physical exam. Recommended testing may include blood tests, imaging tests, such as CT scan, X-ray or MRI, bone marrow biopsy and lymph node biopsy.

If you are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, your doctor will discuss the results of your tests and advise you of the different treatment options, depending on your age and overall health condition, and the stage of your disease.

At Main Line Health our cancer care team provides compassionate care and support paired with advanced technologies and treatments, from diagnosis through survivorship.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.