Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a large network of vessels that carry a clear fluid, called lymph, throughout the body. Also included in the system are lymph nodes, the spleen, thymus gland, bone marrow, and a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. Lymphoma can affect any part of the lymphatic system and, in severe cases, spread to organs outside of the system.

There are over 70 different types of lymphoma classified under two broad categories—Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Diagnosis entails a medical history, physical examination, bloodwork, and a lymph node biopsy. Treatment plans for lymphoma are based largely on the type and stage of lymphoma, as well as a patient's overall health and personal preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

    Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the white blood cells, which are the infection-fighting cells of your immune system. There are over 60 types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and they vary in their symptoms, treatments, and prognosis.

  • What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

    Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that begins in a specific type of white blood cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell. Compared to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma is rarer. A common initial symptom of this cancer is swelling of a lymph node in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin.

  • What causes lymphoma?

    Lymphoma occurs when normal, healthy white blood cells begin multiplying and growing out of control. While DNA mutations (changes) are linked to the development of lymphoma, scientists haven’t teased out yet why these gene changes occur.

  • Is lymphoma curable?

    Most lymphomas are curable. Of the two main types of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma tends to be the most treatable. Indolent (which means slow-growing) non-Hodgkin lymphoma is not curable, although it can usually be managed well for years.

  • What does a lymphoma rash look like?

    If lymphoma starts in the skin (called skin or cutaneous lymphoma), it may cause patches of scaly, red skin to form on the body. This rash, which resembles eczema initially, may eventually progress to hard, raised tumors on the skin (called plaques).

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  1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Types of Lymphoma. Updated 2020.

Additional Reading