Lymphoma Overview

Lymphoma is a broad term used for a group of blood cancers that begin in cells of the lymphatic system. There are two primary categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Hodgkin lymphoma is highly survivable, especially when caught early. The prognosis of NHL patients can vary by type and by stage. But overall the 5-year survival rate for people with NHL is 71%.

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Types of Lymphoma

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that results from a change to the DNA of a lymphocyte, a type of white blood cell. It is one of the most curable forms of cancer. Treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma can include one or more of the following: chemotherapy, immunotherapy and/or radiation therapy, and sometimes bone marrow transplantation, depending on individual patient factors.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a diverse group of blood cancers that generally develop in the lymphocyte cells that help fight infection. NHL is often found as a lump in the neck, groin, armpit or other areas where lymph nodes are located. There are several types of NHL, which can affect either the T-cell or the B-cell in the white blood cells. And NHL can be either aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing). Treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes watchful waiting, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and biological therapies, depending on individual patient factors.

Signs & Symptoms of Lymphoma

Signs and symptoms of lymphoma may include:

  • Painless lump/enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen, or other immune tissue
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Fever without an obvious reason (ie: viral infection)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath 

Lymphoma Risk Factors

Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include:

  • Developing certain infections. Viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection/mononucleosis, T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1), and Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) can directly affect the DNA of lymphocytes, helping to transform them into cancer cells.
  • Your age. Some types of lymphoma are more common in young adults, while others are most often diagnosed in people over the age of 55.
  • Your gender. Males are slightly more likely to develop lymphoma than are females.
  • Your race. White males are more likely than males of African American and Asian American descent to develop lymphoma in the United States.
  • Family history. The risk of lymphoma increases if there has been a first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling) diagnosed with lymphoma.
  • Having a weakened immune system. Lymphoma is more commonly seen in people with immune system diseases or in people who take drugs that suppress their immune system.
  • Autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren disease, and celiac disease are some autoimmune diseases that have been linked with an increased risk of certain lymphomas.
  • Bodyweight and diet. People who are overweight or obese or those who eat a diet high in fat and meats may be at a higher risk for certain lymphomas.

Clinical Trials for Blood Cancers

Compass Oncology participates in clinical trials through Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI), a joint venture with US Oncology Research that offers lymphoma and other blood cancer clinical research trials for patients in the Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, areas. Several promising new treatments are currently being studied for lymphomas. Our patients have participated in clinical research trials that have led to new cancer therapies being approved by the FDA.

You can review other important information about diagnosing lymphoma, staging the disease, and lymphoma treatment options on our website or you can request a consultation with one of our blood cancer specialists at our offices in Portland and Vancouver where they can answer questions specific to your individual diagnosis.