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What Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Cancer occurs when cells in the body begin changing and multiplying out of control. These cells can form lumps of tissue called tumors. Cancer that starts in cells in the body's lymphatic system is called lymphoma. Most types of cancer in the lymphatic system are grouped together under the name non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Understanding the Lymphatic System

Outline of human figure showing lymph vessels and lymph nodes throughout body.

The lymphatic system helps the body fight diseases and infections. This system is a network of vessels (tubes) passing through tissue all over the body. A clear fluid called lymph travels through the vessels to help the body fight infections. Along this network of vessels are small organs called lymph nodes. Some of the places that lymph nodes appear are in the neck, under the arms, and in the groin area. You may have noticed nodes in these areas sometimes swell when you have a cold.


When Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Forms

Since the lymphatic system stretches over the entire body, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere in the body. Lymphoma can spread from the lymphatic system to other tissues of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

Treatment Options for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

You and your health care provider will discuss a treatment plan that’s best for your needs. Treatment options may include:

  • Radiation therapy, which uses directed rays of energy to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy, which uses strong medications to kill cancer cells.

  • Immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 12/31/2013
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