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Non-hodgkin Lymphoma


Non-Hodgkin lymphoma,

or non-Hodgkin disease, 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. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in any lymph tissue in the body. Common places are lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, and chest. Cancer cells can travel from lymph node to lymph node and spread through the body.

Common signs and symptoms:

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

  • Trouble breathing, chest pain, or a cough
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Fever, itchy skin, or night sweats
  • Pain or swelling in your abdomen and pain in the lower back or in both legs
  • Weight loss you cannot explain

Seek care immediately if:

  • 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.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have back pain and weakness in your legs.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep any food or liquids down.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma grow and spread slowly and are called indolent. Others grow and spread quickly and are called aggressive. Treatment depends on the type and how far it has spread in your body.

  • 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.
  • A bone marrow transplant is 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.


  • Rest as needed. Return to activities slowly, and do more as you feel stronger.
  • Eat healthy foods. Eat a variety of healthy foods to get the protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients your body needs. You may need to change the foods you eat depending on your treatments and side effects. You may also need to eat more calories than usual. Work with a dietitian to plan the best meals and snacks for you. Ask if you should take vitamins.
  • Do not smoke. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help quitting. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information before you use these products.
  • Avoid people who have a cold or the flu. Also try to stay away from large groups of people to decrease your risk.

Follow up with your oncologist as directed:

You will need to see your oncologist for ongoing treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 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.

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.