Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes (lymph glands), bone marrow, spleen and thymus. Lymphoma can affect all those areas as well as other organs throughout the body.

Types of lymphoma include:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The most common form of the disease. Cells in the lymphatic system become abnormal. They divide and grow without any order or control. Or old cells that should die don't. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can begin or spread to almost any part of the body.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma. The cells in the lymphatic system become abnormal. But the cancer tends to spread in an orderly way from one group of lymph nodes to the next. Eventually, it can spread almost anywhere.
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. T-lymphocytes, which are infection-fighting white blood cells, become cancerous, causing skin problems.

Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin Lymphoma Symptoms

  • Painless swelling in lymph nodes in neck, underarm, or groin
  • Unexplained fever
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Persistent, nonproductive cough

Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Symptoms

  • Itchiness
  • Dark patches on skin
  • Tumors on skin (mycosis fungoides)
  • Skin infections

Lymphoma Diagnosis

If you are having symptoms of lymphoma, your doctor will carefully check for swelling or lumps in the neck, underarms, and groin. If the lymph nodes don't feel normal, your doctor will perform a biopsy. The doctor will remove a small piece of the lymph node -- or in the case of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a growth from the skin -- and a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

If you have cancer, your doctor will do more tests to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (staging). This may involve blood and bone marrow tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography scans (PET), combination PET/CT scans, and, possibly a laparotomy, during which the doctor cuts into the abdomen and checks the organs for cancer.

Lymphoma Treatment Options

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the diagnosis, the stage of the disease, the size of the tumor, and your general health and age.

Drug Therapies

Your doctor may prescribe the following drug therapies.

For Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphomas:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy

For cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma:

  • Emollients, moisturizers, topical steroids
  • Chemotherapy (by mouth or IV)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Electron beam therapy

Other Procedures

 Patients sometimes receive bone marrow transplantation and/or peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. For more information on transplant please view the blood and marrow transplant page.

Because of our multidisciplinary approach to treatment for all cancers, Wake Forest Baptist has been designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 49 in the country.