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Non - Hodgkin's lymphoma

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a malignant tumour that originates from the lymphatic system. 
Let's give a brief introduction about the lymphatic system:
It consists of lymphoid organs (as bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes) and lymph vessels. When a malignant tumour arises from the lymphatic system, it is called Lymphoma. 
There are two forms: Hodgkin's lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Today we will talk about Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as it is much common than Hodgkin's lymphoma.
What are the causes of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma ?
The definite cause is unknown but it has been linked to some viruses and toxins as benzene and pesticides.

Now let's talk about a general simplified view of the mechanism of this cancer.
This cancer causes production of lots of abnormal lymphocytes. A normal lymphocyte has a life span but the abnormal one doesn't. These lymphocytes continue to grow and divide until they cause crowding of the lymph nodes. As a result, lymph nodes get enlarged.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include:
- Painless enlarged lymph nodes (usually cervical or supra-clavicular nodes). 
Normally, lymph nodes are not felt. If you feel them, then they are enlarged.
(Here is an illustration of the sites of lymph nodes)
- Systemic symptoms as fever, night sweats and weight loss.
- Abdominal pain or swelling.

 Posterior auricular and posterior cervical adenopathy.
(From Swartz MH: Textbook of Physical Diagnosis, 5th ed. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006.)

What are the risk factors ?
Individuals who are old aged or taking immunosuppressive drugs or using insecticides are at a higher risk of developing Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is classified according to "The Working Formulation" into:
- Low grade lymphoma
- Intermediate grade lymphoma
- High grade lymphoma
The treatment depends on the histological findings. In general, it may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, total neck irradiation.

Please note that not all enlarged lymph nodes are of malignant cause as there are other causes of lymph nodes enlargement. If you feel any lymph node in your body, let a doctor check it as early as possible.

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Last edited: 20/2/2012 


  1. does this disease catches four years chil?

  2. Please re-write your question.

  3. hey i suspect i may have symptoms that make me beleive i may have lymphoma.i was diagnosed with a granuloma disease called sarcoidosis in late 2011 when i was studying in europe.i then got tuberculosis after but i finished taking the tb meds late last year on september.i have not had a follow up on my disease and now i have a very enlarged lymphnode on the right side of my neck and regular night sweats.am even scared to go to hospital..please advise.am sorry its just that i want to be prepared when they tell me its a lymphoma.i dont know if my granulomas progressed to malignancy since the last time.my petscan last time showed i had an fdg accumulation of 7.2.just advise me.am a 22 year old female

  4. Hi,

    You should get that lymph node examined by your doctor. Not every enlarged lymph node is because of lymphoma, however there are several causes.

    Best Regards,
    Dr. Ahmad

  5. My daughter is only 4 years old. I noticed a enlarged cervical lymph node at the end of July. After a week I took her to the doctor who said it was nothing but it is greater than 3cm X 3cm. I insisted on a CBC in which I was told was normal but never saw the results myself. Originally for the first 4-5 weeks it was non tender, however the last 2 weeks she complains that it hurts when I touch it and it appears to have a reddish color as compared to the other parts of her neck. I did take her for a second opinion after 4 weeks of it being there and that doctor ordered an ultrasound, all he told me was that there was an enlarged lymph node and that it had good bloodflow if it was still there in 2 months we would further investigate. I don't know how I like the idea of sitting around 2 more months to see what happens... Any advice?

    1. Hi,

      Is there any current infections or had recent infections in the head and neck area as scalp infection, tonsillitis, ear infection ?

      Best regards,
      Dr. Ahmad

  6. What would be the differential diagnosis for a slightly enlarged lymph node in the back of the neck .. it's not painful but it's palpable.. there's no other associated symptoms .. it was there for more than 5 months ??

    And can this be related to previous history of immunosuppressive therapy?

  7. hi I am 13 years old I have a small lump behind my ears . does it mean I have cancer?
    u checked symptoms of cancer but I have none of them . I am doing root canal now so are those things connected



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