What is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is the name for a group of different kinds of cancerous growths that develop in the lymph system, which is a part of the immune system that helps filter out waste and toxins. In NHL, the cancer cells develop from regularly occurring cells in the immune system.
NHL is the 5th most commonly diagnosed cancer in children. Approximately 7% of childhood cancers in the United States are NHL.
When NHL occurs in adults, it is usually rated at a low risk and grows slowly. However, most NHL cases in children are rated as having higher risk, and tend to grow more quickly and aggressively.
There are different types of NHL. The most common types are called Burkitt lymphoma, diffuse large B cell lymphoma, lymphoblastic T cell or B cell lymphoma, and anaplastic large cell lymphoma. NHL is associated with problems within the immune system, which can be passed on through families or can be from a disease the patient was exposed to.
Our approach to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
When NHL is suspected, there are a number of other complications that can be caused by NHL that also need to be taken into account when examining the patient and choosing what therapy to use. The physical problems that can accompany NHL are serious and can include difficulty breathing, mass effects on the heart, spinal cord, kidneys, intestinal obstruction and blood chemical problems. Because these are potentially life threatening, it is important to treat NHL as soon as we know that is the diagnosis.
We will usually use initial imaging studies such as ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs of the areas where the patent is experiencing symptoms to see if NHL is the cause. The diagnosis is confirmed using a biopsy, which is a procedure in which a small amount of tissue is removed and examined.
Once NHL is confirmed, we will conduct a full examination to find out the extent of the disease, how long it has been affecting the patient, and how much of the body it is affecting. This examination will help us determine what stage the disease is in and what treatment is right for the patient.
Treatment for NHL involves a team of different kinds of medical professionals working together to treat the patient. This multidisciplinary team may include oncologists (doctors who specialize in cancer medicine), radiation therapists, and surgeons who specialize in working with children. Combination chemotherapy, which uses different medicines working together to attack the cancer cells, is the primary treatment for NHL.
We also work with internationally recognized laboratory researchers specializing in T and B cell lymphomas, which allows us to use what we learn from their findings in the clinic.