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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma- What Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma? The Basics


Updated November 03, 2010

What Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?:

There are over 30 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). NHL can be further classified by the type of lymphocytes affected (B-Cells or T- Cells) or by the pattern of disease progression. Slow growing NHL can be called “indolent” or “low-grade," while fast growing NHL may be called “aggressive” or “high grade." Like Hodgkin lymphoma, men are more likely than women to develop the disease, but NHL is more common in older persons.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Signs and Symptoms:

Signs and Symptoms of NHL may include:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck, chest and armpits
  • Feeling more tired than usual or generally unwell
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever without signs of an infection
  • Night sweats that soak the bedclothes
  • Itchy skin
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rash

These symptoms can also be present in many other, non- cancerous conditions. If you are concerned about symptoms you are experiencing, you should seek advice from your healthcare provider.

Risk Factors For Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma:

As with many types of cancer, the exact cause of NHL is not known. Many people who have risk factors will never develop the disease, and some lymphoma patients have no known risks.

Some possible risk factors may include:

  • Infection with certain viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or human T- lymphocytotropic virus (HTLV)
  • Prior treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Infection with the helicobacter pylori (h. pylori) bacteria may increase risk of developing a type of lymphoma that affects the wall of the stomach
  • Extended exposure to specific chemicals found in pesticides and fertilizers
  • Weak immune system caused by:


NHL is not a single disease but a group of more than 30 types of cancer that arise from the lymphatic system. Although these diseases have a common origin, they are all different in their signs and symptoms, how they progress and how they are treated. The best advice for any person worried about symptoms such as a lasting, low-grade fever, unexplained weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, tiredness or shortness of breath is to see their doctor or healthcare provider.


Foon,K., Ghobrial,I., Geskin,L. et al. (2006). The Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas. In Lichtman, M., Beutler,E., Kipps,T. et al(eds.)Williams Hematology- 7th edition. (pp. 1407-1461). New York, New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Munker,R.,Marion,J., Ye, G. et al.(2007). The Non- Hodgkin's Lymphomas. In Munker,R., Hillier,E., Glass,J. et al (eds.)Modern Hematology: Biology and Clinical Management- 2nd edition. (pp. 237-271). Totowa, New Jersey: Humana Press Inc.

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