Overview

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's germ-fighting network.

The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes (lymph glands), spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect all those areas as well as other organs throughout the body.

Many types of lymphoma exist. The main categories of lymphoma are:

  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

What lymphoma treatment is best for you depends on your lymphoma type and its severity. Lymphoma treatment may involve chemotherapy, immunotherapy medications, radiation therapy or a bone marrow transplant.

Lymphoma care at Mayo Clinic

Types

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of lymphoma include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes that can occur in any part of the body but most often occur in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.

Causes

Doctors aren't sure what causes lymphoma.

Lymphoma begins when a disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a mutation in its genetic code. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly, causing many diseased lymphocytes that continue multiplying.

The mutations also allow the cells to go on living when other cells would die. This causes too many diseased and ineffective lymphocytes in your lymph nodes and causes the lymph nodes to swell.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of lymphoma include:

  • Increasing age. Your risk of lymphoma increases as you age, though it can occur at any age. Some types of lymphoma are more common in young adults.
  • Being male. Lymphoma is more common in men than it is in women.
  • Having an impaired immune system. Lymphoma is more common in people with immune system diseases or in people who take drugs that suppress their immune systems.
  • Developing certain infections. Some infections are associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, including Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection.

Lymphoma care at Mayo Clinic

June 01, 2017
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  2. The lymphoma guide: Information for patients and caregivers. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/resource-center/download-or-order-free-publications?language=English&category=Lymphoma. Accessed Feb. 15, 2017.
  3. Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq.
  4. Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017.
  5. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 26, 2017.
  6. Lymphoma SPOREs. National Cancer Institute. https://trp.cancer.gov/spores/lymphoma.htm. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017.