What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a part of the body’s immune system. It develops in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a role in fighting infection. These cells begin to grow and divide more quickly than normal, producing too many lymphocytes. The excess lymphocytes can form a tumor in an organ, most notably, the lymph nodes.

Types of Lymphoma

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Hodgkin lymphoma is the less common type – it affects around 2,000 people in the UK each year. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the more common type and affects around 15,000 people in the UK each year.

Symptoms of Lymphoma

Common symptoms of both Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma can include:

  • Painless lumps in the neck, armpits and groin
  • Fever
  • Night Sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Itching of the skin

Diagnosis of Lymphoma

If lymphoma is suspected, further tests will usually need to be done. These can include blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue from a lymph node so it can be examined under a microscope.

Treatment of Lymphoma

Treatment for lymphoma can vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatments can include:

  • Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy – the use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells
  • Stem cell transplant – replacing diseased cells with healthy cells
  • Targeted therapy – drugs that target specific genes involved in cancer growth
  • Immunotherapy –the use of drugs to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells


It is estimated that around 20,000 people develop lymphoma in the UK each year. Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common type, accounting for 10-15% of all lymphomas. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in people over 60 and is two to three times more common in men than in women.