Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the immune system. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is also called NHL.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma begins when a lymphocyte (usually a B cell) becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell divides to make copies of itself. The new cells divide again and again, making more and more abnormal cells. The abnormal cells don't die when they should. They don't protect the body from infections or other diseases. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.
Because lymphatic tissue is in many parts of the body, Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere. Usually, it's first found in a lymph node.
When lymphoma is found, the pathologist reports the type. There are many types of lymphoma. The most common types are diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma.
Lymphomas may be grouped by how quickly they are likely to grow:
- Indolent (also called low-grade) lymphomas grow slowly. They tend to cause few symptoms.
- Aggressive (also called intermediate-grade and high-grade) lymphomas grow and spread more quickly. They tend to cause severe symptoms. Over time, many indolent lymphomas become aggressive lymphomas.
It’s a good idea to get a second opinion about the type of lymphoma that you have. The treatment plan varies by the type of lymphoma. A pathologist at a major referral center can review your biopsy.
Visit the National Cancer Institute where this information and more can be found about non-Hodgkin lymphoma or ask your cancer care team questions about your individual situation.