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Non-hodgkin Lymphoma

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is also called non-Hodgkin disease. It is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system contains lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and glands, such as the spleen and thymus. Lymph vessels carry lymph fluid throughout the body. Lymph fluid contains lymphocytes (white blood cells) that help fight infection and disease. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma causes lymphocytes to grow and divide without control and to form tumors.

What causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

There is no known cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The following may increase your risk:

  • Long-term exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides, hair dyes, woodworking chemicals, or nitrates in drinking water

  • A family history of this disease

  • Infections caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses, such as HIV

  • Certain drugs, such as amphetamines, LSD, and cocaine

  • Exposure to high amounts of radiation

  • A weak immune system, which may be caused by radiation, chemotherapy, or medication that weakens the immune system

What are the signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, arm, or groin

  • Trouble breathing, or a cough

  • Feeling more tired than usual

  • Fever

  • Itchy skin

  • Pain or swelling in your abdomen and pain in the lower back or in both legs

  • Night sweats

  • Weight loss without trying

How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?

  • A bone marrow biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of bone marrow to be tested. Bone marrow is tissue inside the bone.



  • A lymph node biopsy is a procedure to remove lymph node tissue to be tested. Caregivers may use a needle to take a sample from a lymph node, or remove a lymph node during surgery.

  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to take pictures of your chest, abdomen, and pelvis. The pictures may show where the cancer is located. You may be given a dye to help caregivers see the cancer better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • A gallium scan is a test that uses a radioactive material called gallium to look for infection or inflammation. Gallium is given through an IV and pictures of your body are then taken.

  • A PET scan is a test that may be used to find tumors. A form of radioactive sugar is injected into your vein. Pictures of your body will then be taken to see where the sugar has been absorbed. If there are tumors, they will absorb the sugar and can be more easily seen on the pictures.

  • X-rays of your chest, abdomen, or lymph nodes may be taken. Caregivers may use the x-rays to look for tumors, blockages, signs of infection, or other problems.

  • Blood tests may be done to help caregivers diagnose and treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • A lumbar puncture is a procedure to remove fluid from around your spinal cord to be tested. Treatment may also be given.

How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma treated?

  • Chemotherapy is medicine used to treat cancer by killing tumor cells. Chemotherapy may also be used to shrink lymph nodes that contain cancer.

  • Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells and may stop the cancer from spreading. It may be given alone or with chemotherapy to treat cancer.

  • Laparotomy is surgery to open your abdomen. Caregivers may do a laparotomy to look closely at organs and lymph nodes inside your abdomen. Tissue samples may be taken to be tested.

  • A bone marrow transplant a procedure to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy marrow. You are usually given bone marrow from a donor. Sometimes your own marrow may be used if it is collected when your cancer is in remission (not active). The bone marrow transplant is given to you in an IV while you are in the hospital.

  • A peripheral stem cell transplant is a procedure to put blood cells called stem cells into your blood. Blood is first taken from your body and put through a process called apheresis. During apheresis, the stem cells are taken out of the blood. The stem cells are then put back into your blood, and they usually return to the bone marrow. In the bone marrow, stem cells can grow and become white blood cells to help fight infection.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have back pain and weakness in your legs.

  • You have chills, a cough, red or swollen skin, or feel weak and achy.

  • You have a fever.

  • You are so depressed you feel you cannot cope with your illness.

  • You are vomiting and cannot keep any food or liquids down.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have chest pain, your heart pounds or races, or you have trouble breathing.

  • You are too dizzy to stand, or you have trouble keeping your balance.

  • You have a seizure.

  • Your legs swell.

  • You cannot think clearly, or you feel confused.

  • You feel weak or numb on one side of your body.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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