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 subtypes are:
- Hodgkin's lymphoma (formerly called Hodgkin's disease)
- 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, a bone marrow transplant or some combination of these.
Lymphoma care at Mayo Clinic
Signs and symptoms of lymphoma may include:
- Painless swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
- Persistent fatigue
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
Doctors aren't sure what causes lymphoma. But it begins when a disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a genetic mutation. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly, causing many diseased lymphocytes that continue multiplying.
The mutation also allows 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.
Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include:
- Your age. Some types of lymphoma are more common in young adults, while others are most often diagnosed in people over 55.
- Being male. Males are slightly more likely to develop lymphoma than are females.
- 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 system.
- Developing certain infections. Some infections are associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, including the Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection.
Lymphoma care at Mayo Clinic
Dec. 23, 2017
- AskMayoExpert. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- 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 July 18, 2017.
- Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Accessed July 18, 2017.
- Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq. Accessed July 18, 2017.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 26, 2017.
- Lymphoma SPOREs. National Cancer Institute. https://trp.cancer.gov/spores/lymphoma.htm. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017.
- Maurer MJ, et al. Event-free survival at 24 months is a robust end point for disease-related outcome in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treated with immunochemotherapy. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2014;32:1066.
- Nowakowski GS, et al. Lenalidomide combined with R-CHOP overcomes negative prognostic impact of non-germinal center B-cell phenotype in newly diagnosed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: A phase II study. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015;33:251.
- Laurent C., et al. Impact of expert pathologic review of lymphoma diagnosis: Study of patients from the French Lymphopath Network. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2017;35:2008.
- Ansell SM, et al. Pd-1 blockade with nivolumab in relapsed or refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;372:311.
- Johnston PB, et al. Everolimus combined with R-CHOP-21 for new, untreated, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (NCCTG 1085 [Alliance]): Safety and efficacy results of a phase 1 and feasibility trial. The Lancet Haematology. 2016;3:e309. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhae/article/PIIS2352-3026(16)30040-0/abstract. Accessed July 24, 2017.
- Mayo Clinic first in U.S. to offer genetic test for lymphoma. Forefront. 2017;6. http://www.mayo.edu/research/forefront/mayo-clinic-first-us-offer-genetic-test-lymphoma. Accessed July 24, 2017.
- Common side effects of radiation therapy. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation/coping.html. Accessed July 27, 2017.
- Distress management. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed July 18, 2017.
- Thompson CA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 22, 2017.