Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

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Q. A friend of mine has something called "mixed non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma." Can you help me find out more about it? I want to be there for her.

A. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system, a collection of ducts, nodes, and organs that transports lymph and helps protect the body against infection. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is cancer of the lymph system, and occurs most often in lymph nodes in the chest, neck, abdomen, tonsils, and skin. NHL is now the sixth most common cancer in the U.S. with more than 50,000 new cases each year. The incidence has doubled in the U.S. since the 1970s, partly due to our aging population. NHL can develop in people at all ages, although usually it occurs after age 50. Over 85 percent of cases are B-cell lymphomas; the other type is known as T-cell, and the difference refers to the type of white blood cells affected.

The most common sign is an enlargement of a lymph node, often without pain. Often when lymph nodes enlarge due to infection such as a sore throat, these are painful. With lymphoma there is usually just swelling and not pain. Treatment is highly specific for each patient, but often includes a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.

Survival is linked to age of onset and extent of the disease. Be sure your friend is at a well-recognized cancer center where the latest chemotherapy is available.

For more information, the following Web sites are good places to start:

National Cancer Institute

Lymphoma Research Foundation

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