Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, also called Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or NHL, is defined as any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells), which are a crucial part of your immune system. It generally involves the presence of cancerous lymphocytes in your lymph nodes, but it can also spread to other parts of your lymphatic system, such as the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. NHL can even involve organs outside of the lymphatic system.
In contrast to NHL, Hodgkin’s lymphoma was the first lymphoma described and was important to diagnose for patients and doctors alike as it was extremely sensitive to radiation treatment.
It is estimated that there are 70,800 new cases of NHL and over 18,000 deaths secondary to NHL in the United States in 2014.
There are many different types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing types) or indolent (slower growing types). In addition, they may be formed from either B-cells or T-cells. B- and T-cells—also known as B- and T-lymphocytes—are highly specialized defender cells. Among these cells, there are different groups that are tailored to combat diverse types of germs. This is how they work: if your body is infected with a particular germ, only be B- and T-cells that recognize this invader will respond. These select cells are quickly able to multiply, thus creating an army of identical cells that can fight the infection. Special types of B- and T-cells are “memory” cells—meaning that they ‘remember’ each particular invader they have fought, making you immune to a second attack.
- B cell NHL include: Burkitt lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma
- T cell NHL include: mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma