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Our doctors and patients explain why MSK is leading the way in diagnosing and treating lymphoma. View Details Back to top

There are more than 70 different types of lymphoma. They range from indolent (slow growing) to highly aggressive. Lymphomas are categorized into two broad groups: non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphoma If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma, Memorial Sloan Kettering is ready to help. Learn more about how we treat this rare cancer. Learn more Back to top

There are many types of lymphoma and in most cases, there is no clear reason why lymphoma develops. Your risk for certain types of lymphoma can increase if your immune system is suppressed. For example, organ or bone marrow transplantation, treatment with immunosuppressive drugs, and the presence of autoimmune diseases may increase the risk for certain types of lymphoma.

Being exposed to some infections may also increase your risk of developing some types of lymphoma. These include the bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, the hepatitis C virus, the HIV virus, or the human T cell leukemia/lymphotropic virus.

In rare cases, a very uncommon form of lymphoma has been linked to breast implants, particularly those with a textured surface. This lymphoma has occurred in people who chose implants for cosmetic reasons as well as people who had implants during reconstructive surgery after breast cancer.

Learn more about breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

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Your treatment depends on the type of lymphoma you have and how far the disease has spread. Thanks to advances in molecular and genetic testing and improvements in our understanding of the biology of different tumor types, we are able to tailor highly individualized treatments.

Some slow-growing lymphomas may not require treatment and can instead be carefully monitored. This approach is called active surveillance.

For other lymphomas, very effective treatments are available, including chemotherapy, targeted therapies, radiation, stem cell transplantation, immunotherapy, and other therapies.

Hear from our experts about how we’re improving immunotherapies for lymphoma and what we’re learning about the genomics of the disease.

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Our lymphoma team delivers compassionate cancer care of the highest quality. We take into account each person’s individual needs to develop a personalized treatment plan. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s specialists have vast depth and breadth of experience in all subtypes of lymphoma. The result is the best outcome for the more than 1,200 lymphoma patients we treat each year.

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What Causes Lymphoma?


Lymphoma is a group of blood cancers that develops when lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) mutate and grow control. When this happens, the cancerous cells no longer die but continue to multiply and invade different parts of the body. Although genetics plays a central role in the development of lymphoma, no one knows for sure what causes the cells to mutate.

What scientists do know is that certain risk factors can increase your risk of lymphoma. Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will get lymphoma. In most cases, they can't even predict your lihood of developing the disease. Still, they may provide your doctor with valuable clues that can lead to an early diagnosis and treatment.

The key risk factors associated with lymphoma include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Family history
  • Certain infections
  • Chemical exposure
  • Previous cancers and cancer treatments

Obesity and diet may also play a part.

Lymphoma is not a single disease but a group of related blood cancers with numerous types and subtypes. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Both of these lymphomas differ not only in their disease pattern and cell types but also in many of their risk factors.

Many of these risk factors are non-modifiable, meaning that there is nothing you can do to change them. Chief among them are age, sex, and immune dysfunction.

Age plays a key role in the development of lymphoma. Although lymphoma can occur at any age, including childhood, the majority are diagnosed in adults over 60.

However, un non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a significant number of Hodgkin lymphoma cases are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. Because of this, the median age for diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 55, whereas the median age for diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma is 39.

Sex is another risk factor that places some individuals at greater risk of lymphoma than others.

While men are slightly more ly to develop lymphoma than women, there are certain types of lymphoma for which women are at greater risk.

This includes nodular sclerosing Hodgkin's lymphoma (the most common and treatable form of Hodgkin lymphoma) as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the breast, thyroid, and the respiratory tract.

It is believed that the hormone estrogen influences which types of lymphoma are more or less common in women. There are also variations in how women respond to certain therapies, with women generally responding better to drugs Rituxan (rituximab) and Revlimid (lenalidomide) than men.

The immune system plays a central role in the development of lymphoma, in part by suppressing mutations in the two main types of lymphocytes (called B-cells and T-cells) that can lead to cancer.

As you get older, your immune response will invariably begin to weaken. This may explain why lymphoma is more common in people over 60 and why the risk continues to grow every year thereafter. But, age is not the only factor that contributes to the loss of immune function.

Another risk factor you can't change are your genetics. Although there is no single gene that “causes” lymphoma, there are some that may predispose you to the disease. In recent years, scientists have begun to link specific genetic mutations to specific types of lymphoma.

These include mutations involving oncogenes, which help cells grow and divide, and tumor suppressor genes, which tell a cell when it is time to die. If either (or both) of these genes mutate, cells can suddenly multiply and spread control without end. Many scientists believe that a combination of mutations is needed to induce lymphoma (a hypothesis referred to as the “multi-hit theory”),

This is evidenced in part by the pattern of inheritance in families. Un autosomal dominant disorders in which there is a 50/50 chance of developing a disease if a gene is inherited, lymphoma doesn't have a clear pattern of inheritance. Still, family history plays a central role in the overall risk, most specifically with Hodgkin lymphoma.

The inheritance pattern in families with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is far less clear. Although there is a modest familial risk, the current body of evidence suggests that the genetic mutations are more often acquired than inherited. This may be caused by exposure to radiation, chemicals, or infections or occur spontaneously with advancing age or for no apparent reason at all.

A number of infections, environmental toxins, and medical treatments have been linked to lymphoma. Scientists believe that they either trigger the disease in people genetically predisposed to lymphoma or cause the mutations themselves.

  • Campylobacter jejuni is a common cause of bacterial food poisoning that is linked to a type of abdominal lymphoma known as immunoproliferative small intestinal disease.
  • Cellulitis, a severe bacterial skin infection, is with a 15% to 28% increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, most especially cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
  • Chlamydophila psittaci, a bacteria associated with the lung infection psittacosis, is linked to ocular adnexal marginal zone lymphoma (lymphoma of the eye).
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is closely linked to both Burkitt lymphoma and post-transplant lymphoma, as well as 20% to 25% of all Hodgkin lymphoma cases.
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori),a bacterial infection associated with gastric ulcers, is linked to mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma of the stomach.
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by causing the excessive production of lymphocytes, many of which are malformed and vulnerable to malignancy. Lymphomas linked to HCV are generally low-grade and slow-growing.
  • Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8), a virus associated with a rare skin cancer called Kaposi sarcoma in people with HIV, can increase the risk of an equally rare lymphoma known as primary effusion lymphoma (PEL).
  • Human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1), a virus spread by blood transfusions, sexual contact, and shared needles, is closely linked to highly aggressive adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL).

Some studies have suggested that chemicals benzene and certain insecticides are linked with an increased risk of both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is a highly contentious topic, with some studies suggesting an increased risk of lymphoma and others showing no risk at all.

A 2013 study published in Cancer Causes and Control found a close association between Hodgkin lymphoma and the use of insecticides and fungicides (especially those containing acetylcholinesterase inhibitors found in products Baygon). Interestingly, the risk was limited to adults who used five or more insecticides, making it less clear which substances pose the greatest harm.

A Canadian study published in the International Journal of Cancer similarly found that people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma had higher levels of pesticide chemicals in their blood than people without. Chief among these were pesticides containing chlordane (a chemical banned in the United States since 1988), which reportedly increased the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 2.7-fold.

Further research is needed to determine how these chemical toxins contribute to lymphoma and what risk they actually pose.

Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to treat cancer can increase a person's risk of lymphoma. With that said, the risk has been decreasing in recent years due to newer drugs and safer radiotherapy techniques.

The risk of lymphoma is seen to increase with the aggressiveness of the therapy. For example, BEACOPP chemotherapy, involving seven different drugs, is more ly to cause second cancers than CHOP regimens involving four. The duration of therapy and the incidence of relapse also play a part.

People previously exposed to high levels of radiation therapy are also at an increased risk of lymphoma. The risk is especially high in people with non-small cell lung cancer in whom radiation can increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 53%. The risk is further increased when radiation and chemotherapy are combined.

Certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of lymphoma. Although there are things you can do to modify these factors, it is not entirely clear how much the changes will impact your risk.

A number of studies have found a direct link between obesity and Hodgkin lymphoma, with an increasing body mass index (BMI) corresponding to an increased risk of lymphoma.

The study, which looked at the impact of obesity in 5.8 million people in the United Kingdom, concluded that 7.4% percent of adult lymphoma cases can be attributed to being overweight (BMI over 25) or obese (BMI over 30).

Despite early claims that certain fats are linked to gastrointestinal lymphoma, most scientists agree that the type of fat consumed is less important than the impact of body weight on lymphoma. With that said, trans fats are linked to a significantly higher incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women.

Whether losing weight will reduce the risk of lymphoma on an individual basis is unclear. Even so, maintaining a healthy diet and an ideal weight is beneficial to your health and can help support immune function.

Another less common risk factor involves breast implants. Although rare, some women with implants have been known to develop anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in their breast. This seems more ly with implants that are textured rather than those that are smooth.

While selecting a smooth implant can theoretically reduce your risk, the overall risk irrespective of implant type is only around one per 1,000 procedures.


Childhood Lymphomas


Lymphomas are cancers that develop in the lymph system. The vessels of the lymph system carry a watery fluid called lymph that contains white blood cells, or lymphocytes, that fight infections.

The lymph system connects the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, and groin with the spleen, thymus, and parts of the tonsils, stomach, and small intestine. Once a malignancy begins in one part of the lymph system, it often spreads throughout the rest of the system before it is detected.

Lymphomas present with symptoms such as painless swelling of the lymph nodes, fever and fatigue. Click HERE for more information about the Lymphatic system.

Lymphomas are divided into sub-groups according to the cell types that make up the cancer. Broadly, they are classified as either non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s.

Of these two types, non-Hodgkin’s (NHL) is the more common lymphoma in children, and it occurs more frequently between the ages of ten and twenty than under ten. Hodgkin’s is rare in children under five years of age.

In children under age 10, it is more common in boys than in girls.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas (NHL)

The three types of NHL that occur most often in children are:

  • lymphoblastic: Predominantly T-cell origin, sometimes hard to distinguish from leukemia and accounts for approximately 30% of childhood NHLs.
  • small noncleaved cell lymphoma (Burkitt’s and non-Burkitt’s): B-cell origin, cALLa and accounts for 40-50% of childhood NHLs.
  • large cell lymphoma: A heterogeneous group B-cell lineage and T-cell lineage, some are both T-cell and B-cell and accounts for 20-25% of childhood NHLs.

NHL is the most frequent malignancy in children with AIDS.

Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas

Treatment for NHL depends on the stage and the type of NHL. In general, NHL is treated with systemic multi-agent chemotherapy as well as treatment of the central nervous system (CNS) when indicated.

Chemotherapy drugs can include vincristine, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, prednisone, mercaptopurine, methotrexate, and L-asparaginase. Radiation can also be included.

High-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplant is sometimes indicated.

  • Staging information on the NCI site

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Hodgkin’s disease is characterized by the presence of large, bi-nucleated cells called “Reed-Sternberg cells” or R-S. Subtypes of Hodgkin’s are determined by the number of R-S cells and other factors.

Treatment for Hodgkin’s

Treatment for Hodgkin’s depends on several factors including the stage of the cancer:

  • Staging information for Hodgkin’s on the NCI site

Patients are designated a risk group. Low risk groups might receive chemotherapy only, while higher risk groups receive more aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy drugs can include cyclophosphamide, procarbazine, vincristine and/or vinblastine, prednisone or dexamethasone, doxorubicin, bleomycin, dacarbazine, etoposide, methotrexate, and cytosine arabinoside.

Clinical Trials for Lymphomas

Clinical trials for lymphomas can be found by searching the clinical trial database on the NCI web site. Follow these directions:

  • Start at the NCI clinical trials search page.
  • Choose type of cancer: “lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, child” or “lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, child.”
  • You will be given more choices (e.g., type of cancer and type of trial). Choose the appropriate responses and click “search.”

Symptoms of Lymphomas

Symptoms can include:

  • swollen lymph node, especially in the neck, armpit or groin (Hodgkin’s disease usually presents with enlarged lymph nodes)
  • swelling of the face
  • abdominal pain or swelling
  • weakness, tiredness
  • sweating, especially at night
  • unexplained fever
  • unexplained weight loss
  • shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, occasional cough, high-pitched breathing sounds
  • difficulty in swallowing


  • 7% of childhood cancers
  • Third most common childhood malignancy
  • 800 cases/year in the US
  • More common in ages 10-20
  • Very unusual in children under 3 years of age
  • NHL has a cure rate of 60%
  • Hodgkin’s has a cure rate of 90-95%



  • Mike’s Lymphoma Resource Pages: A comprehensive lymphoma site with good coverage of pediatric lymphomas.
  • Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF): This is a very comprehensive site. Although it focuses on adult lymphomas, the disease descriptions, staging, grades, support, and treatment sections offer invaluable information to parents of children with lymphomas. This site also keeps tabs on new treatments.
  • NHL cyber family Web Site: Not childhood lymphoma specific.
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center Children’s Cancer Hospital– MD Anderson’s website contains information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of childhood cancers. You can also find information about their Childhood Cancer Survivors Clinic, clinical trials, etc.

E-mail Support Lists

  • ACOR: ped-lymphoma and ped-onc

For more information about the American Childhood Cancer Organization call 855.858.2226 or visit:

  • Who We Are
  • How to Get Involved
  • How to Donate


Types of Lymphoma: What You Need to Know


Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, particularly the white blood cells called lymphocytes that work as protection against infections and diseases.

Lymphocytes affected by the disease reproduce faster instead of dying normally to provide space for new cells. Lymphoma develops in different parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes, and the first manifestation of the disease is swollen, though painless, lymph nodes.

There are different types of lymphomas; the most common type is Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s Lymphomas

The Hodgkin’s lymphomas are the rarest types of the disease and are characterized by Reed-Sternberg cells. There are six different subtypes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This type of cancer has several unique characteristics, which can be observed under a microscope.

According to the WHO classification system, there are four types of classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma: nodular sclerosing, mixed cellularity, lymphocyte rich, and lymphocyte depleted, as well as two types of nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which are rare and occur only in 1 20 cases of the disease.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are the most common. There are about 61 known types of the disease. Un Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma does not involve Reed-Sternberg cells. It is difficult to list every type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to the number and different methods used.

Therefore, the current standard classification of non-Hodgkin’s is that defined by the WHO. It is its appearance when analyzed under a microscope, the chromosomal features of the lymphoma cells, the existence of certain proteins, and whether it originated in B-cells or T-cells.

B-Cell Lymphomas

About 85 percent of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas diagnosed in the U.S. are B-cell lymphomas, which means they originated from this type of cell. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common one, followed by its subtypes primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma — a fast growing but usually easy to treat lymphoma, and intravascular large B-cell lymphoma — a more rare lymphoma.

are also B-cell lymphomas.

Other B-cell lymphomas include follicular lymphoma; chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma; mantle cell lymphoma; marginal zone B-cell lymphomas; nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma; nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma; splenic marginal zone B-cell lymphoma; Burkitt lymphoma; lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia); hairy cell leukemia; and primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma.

In addition, extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphomas or mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphomas are characterized by appearing outside the lymph nodes.

T-Cell Lymphomas

Less than 15 percent of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are T-cell lymphomas, and there are numerous subtypes, most of them rare.

 Precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia is one the largest subgroups of T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. It can also be considered a leukemia, according to the extent of bone marrow affected.

The other large group is the peripheral T-cell lymphomas, which includes most of the subtypes.

These subtypes of peripheral T-cell lymphomas include cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (mycosis fungoides, Sezary syndrome, among others); adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma; angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma; extranodal natural killer/T-cell lymphoma; nasal type; enteropathy-associated intestinal T-cell lymphoma (EATL), which is subdivided into type 1 and type 2; anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL); and peripheral T-cell lymphoma.

Note: Lymphoma News today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


What is lymphoma?


We all start life as a single cell – the microscopic building block of our bodies. While we’re in the womb, this cell divides to form two cells, then four cells, then eight cells, and so on.

As they divide, these cells gradually develop into all the different types of cell we’re made of, such as blood cells, muscle cells and nerve cells.

By the time we’re born, our bodies contain about 200 different types of cell – and trillions of cells in total.

Figure: Cell division. Content supplied by the world’s largest charitable funder of cancer research © Cancer Research UK [2002] All rights reserved

After we’re born, most of these cells carry on dividing to allow us to grow and develop. Even when we’re fully grown, cells continue to divide to replace old cells that die off naturally. In fact, every minute, around 100 million of our cells die and are replaced by new ones.

Cell division and cell death are normal processes. They are controlled by chemical signals. Usually, cell division and cell death are kept carefully in balance so we only make the number of new cells our body needs. 


Cancer develops when a mistake happens during cell division that changes the DNA inside a cell. This is called a ‘mutation’. Mutations can create abnormal cells that stop responding to control signals. These cells might:

  • start dividing when they shouldn’t
  • carry on dividing when they should stop
  • stay alive when they should die.

This forms a population of cells that divide faster than they die, leading to an uncontrolled build-up of abnormal cells.

One mutation on its own is not usually enough to cause cancer. For cancer to develop, the abnormal cells need to be able to divide and grow uncontrollably, hide from the body’s immune system and get all the nutrients they need to survive. This normally takes a number of different mutations.

Once cancer develops, the abnormal cells might stop your body from making normal, healthy cells. This can prevent organs from working properly. The abnormal cells might spread to other parts of the body and start growing there too. Cancer also uses up the energy and nutrients your body needs.

There are many different types of cancer depending on what type of cell became abnormal. Different types of cancer can have different effects, depending on where the cancer is and how fast it is growing.

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Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops when white blood cells called lymphocytes grow control. Lymphocytes are part of your immune system.

They travel around your body in your lymphatic system, helping you fight infections. Your lymphatic system runs throughout your body, similar to your blood circulatory system, carrying a fluid called lymph.

The fluid passes through lymph nodes (glands), which are spread throughout your body.

Figure: The lymphatic system
(lymph vessels and lymph nodes are shown in green)

If you have lymphoma, your lymphocytes divide in an abnormal way or do not die when they should. The abnormal lymphocytes build up, usually in lymph nodes in your armpits, neck or groin. However, they can collect in almost any part of your body.

The symptoms of lymphoma depend on where the lymphoma starts, what parts of your body it affects, and what type of lymphoma it is.

There are over 60 different types, broadly grouped into Hodgkin lymphomas and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are further grouped depending on whether they are slow-growing (described as ‘low-grade’) or fast-growing (‘high-grade’). Different types of lymphoma behave differently and need different treatment.

What are the different types of blood cancer?

Lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma are all types of blood cancer (also known as ‘haematological’ cancers). Although there are similarities between some types of lymphoma and leukaemia, most types develop differently. They also behave differently and are treated differently.

  • Lymphoma affects lymphocytes. The abnormal cells develop in the lymph nodes or organs of the lymphatic system.
  • Leukaemia affects white blood cells, including lymphocytes. The abnormal cells develop in the bone marrow or the bloodstream.
  • Myeloma affects a particular type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. The abnormal cells develop in the bone marrow.

Bloodwise and Leukaemia Care have more information about leukaemia. Myeloma UK has more information on myeloma. 

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Classification of Lymphomas

Lymphomas are graded as low, intermediate and high depending on the kind of lymphoma cells present and how they affect lymph nodes and chromosomes. Some lymphomas grow faster and require specific treatment. Classifying them is complex because many kinds of lymphocyte cells can be involved.

Low-Grade Lymphoma

These grow so slowly that patients can live for many years mostly without symptoms, although some may experience pain from an enlarged lymph gland. After five to 10 years, low-grade disorders begin to progress rapidly to become aggressive or high-grade and produce more severe symptoms.

Intermediate-Grade Lymphoma

This type progresses fairly rapidly without treatment. With treatment, remission can be induced in between 50 to 75 percent of cases. Initial treatment has been so successful that people who stay in remission for three years after diagnosis are often considered cured. Stage I disorders are treated with radiotherapy.

High-Grade Lymphoma

Without treatment, these can progress rapidly regardless of stage. They are treated aggressively. With treatment, between 50 to 75 percent of patients enter remission.

Those who stay in remission one year can look forward to a life free from recurrence. Treatment consists of intensive combination chemotherapy, which is sometimes supplemented with radiation therapy.

Drug regimens used are determined by a number of factors, the most important being tissue study.

Types of Lymphomas

the course of disease and the kind of lymphocytes affected, lymphomas are divided into two types: Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin Disease

About 75 percent of those diagnosed with Hodgkin disease recover fully. About 90 percent of all people diagnosed with early-stage illness and more than 50 percent of those with more advanced stage are now living longer than 10 years with no signs of the disease coming back.

The stage of the disease at diagnosis is critical in planning treatments. Sometimes giving the patient aggressive chemotherapy and then introducing young cells from the bone marrow (bone marrow transplantation) may increase chances of the patient living longer.

A bone marrow transplant should be considered for every patient whose disease comes back after undergoing chemotherapy.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

In the past 10 years, this disease has become easier to treat as more procedures are found to be effective.

Overall, 50 to 60 percent of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma now live five years or longer without a recurrence.

While a number of factors determine the best treatment for these disorders, the most significant is tissue classification followed by determination of the disease's stage.

  • Orthopaedic Oncology Program
  • Cancer Institute