Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system and usually starts in lymphocytes (white blood cells) found in one or more lymph nodes. White blood cells are a part of the lymphatic system that helps fight diseases and infections. There are many types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The type is determined by how the cancerous cell looks under a microscope.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can occur at any age, but the incidence increases with age, especially after the age of 60. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma makes up 4% of new cancer cases each year, and there is a 1 in 45 lifetime chance of having this type of cancer.
The exact cause isn't known, but doctors believe a virus or activation of abnormal genes may be involved in some cases. Some risk factors are thought to be:
People can have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma even without these risk factors.
Swollen glands in the neck, armpit, or groin are the first symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Other possible symptoms include unexplained fever, night sweats, weight loss, and stomach or intestinal pain. Over time, everyone with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma will develop anemia due to the loss of red blood cells, which leaves people feeling weak and tired.
The type of symptoms experienced depends on where the lymphoma is located. A lymphoma in the chest can lead to a swollen face, breathing difficulties, or fluid buildup in the lungs (pleural effusion). If a lymphoma starts in the abdomen or small intestine, symptoms may include a loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, or a bloated and painful abdomen. A lymphoma in the groin can lead to swollen legs. Lymphomas can also cause thickened, dark, and itchy areas on the skin.