Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. This system drains excess fluid from the tissue. It also helps protect against infections. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a general name that applies to many types of lymphomas, which are based on:
- The type of cell that is involved
- The patterns of growth
In general, there are 2 main groups:
- Slow growing lymphomas
- Aggressive lymphomas
These cancers are different from Hodgkin lymphoma. This is another type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
The Lymphatic System
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The exact cause is not known. Mutations in genes may be related to this cancer.
Some risk factors include:
- History of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Infections involving the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or Epstein-Barr virus
- Chronic hepatitis C infection
- Genetic conditions, such as ataxia telangiectasia, X-linked lymphoproliferative disease, or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
- A parent with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, especially if they had it at an early age
Symptoms may vary greatly in each child. Symptoms may include:
- Painless swelling of the neck, underarm, groin, or any other lymph node area
- Unexplained fever
- Sore throat
- Constant fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Itchy skin, especially on the legs and feet
- Bone and joint pain
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include an exam of the lymph nodes.
Your child’s bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood and urine tests
- Lymph node biopsy
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
- Spinal tap
Your child’s body structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer and its type. Talk with the doctor and the healthcare team about the best plan for your child. Treatment options include:
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream, then travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. With radiation therapy, radiation is directed at the tumor to kill the cancer cells.
Your child may have a transplant procedure, such as:
- Bone marrow transplantation —Bone marrow is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein. Marrow may also be donated from a healthy donor.
- Peripheral stem cell transplant—Stem cells are immature cells that produce blood cells. They are removed from circulating blood before chemotherapy or radiation treatment. The cells are replaced after treatment. These cells can develop new healthy cells.
These medicines are designed after the body’s natural cancer-fighting mechanisms. They increase or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. One type of biological therapy, interferons, interferes with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth.
Sometimes a drug or antibody that is directed at the lymphoma is linked to a radioactive substance. It will deliver a focused dose of radiation to the tumor.
There is no known way to prevent this form of cancer.
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org
Lymphoma Foundation Canada http://www.lymphoma.ca
Updated January 6, 2015. Accessed February 25, 2015.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin website. Available at:
Accessed February 25, 2015.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Updated December 4, 2014. Accessed February 25, 2015.
2/5/2013 DynaMed’s Systematic Literature Surveillance
Kharazmi E, Fallah M, Sundquist K, et al. Familial risk of early and late onset cancer: nationwide prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2012;345:e8076.
Last Updated: 5/5/2014