Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) are a broad class of hematologic disorders of a certain type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. In NHL, the abnormal lymphocytes multiply and may be found in lymph nodes and related immune and blood-forming organs (spleen, bone marrow, tonsils and thymus).

Physicians at Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI) are specialists in the diagnosis, management and treatment of patients with NHL, and work with providers throughout the region to assist in optimal care of patients with various types of NHL.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Causes

The causes of most types of NHL are unknown. However, those more likely to be diagnosed with NHL are:

  • Male
  • Elderly
  • Caucasian
  • Patients with inherited immune disorders
  • Patients on immunosuppressant drugs following an organ transplant
  • Patients with high exposure to pesticides

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Symptoms

A common early sign of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a painless swelling in lymph nodes of the neck, armpits, groin or abdomen. Other more common symptoms include:

  • Fever and sweats (often at night)
  • Constant fatigue and/or pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion and abdominal pain or bloating
  • Pressure or pain in the lower back
  • Headaches, constant coughing and abnormal pressure and congestion in the face, neck and upper chest

Physicians may use the following tests to diagnose and stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Physical examination
  • Complete blood count and other blood studies
  • CT scan of the neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis
  • PET scan
  • Lymph node biopsy or excision
  • Bone marrow biopsy

Some types of NHL are considered slow growing while others may be quite aggressive. Information obtained from the studies and from a thorough physical examination allows the physician to  appropriately stage and determine the best treatment plan for the patient.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

Prognosis and treatment options for NHL depend on a number of factors  including:

  • Symptoms
  • Stage and type of NHL
  • Patient’s age and health
  • Whether the cancer is recurring and/or aggressively spreading

Sometimes, a “watch and wait” approach is recommended for certain lymphoid disorders. In others, medications are necessary early to help control the disease. Treatment options for NHL may also include radiation therapy. Depending on the type of NHL and how the disease acts, a hematopoietic cell transplantation may be advised.

For many NHL diseases, hematopoietic cell transplant using  a patient’s own stem cells is recommended. These are called autologous stem cell transplants. In other NHL, patients have better outcomes when using a donor’s stem cells. These types of transplants are termed allogeneic stem cell transplants. For allogeneic transplants, sometimes a brother, sister, or even a parent or child may be the best donor. Other treatments that may be indicated and available are called immune-based therapies.

Colorado Blood Cancer Institute is at the forefront of innovative treatment options for patients with NHL and is always participating and leading clinical research to improve treatment options and outcomes for patients. Should patients require a hematopoietic cell transplant, CBCI physicians and advanced practice providers remain the largest and most experienced in the multi-state region, and continue to advance the field to benefit all patients.