Types of Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer that occurs in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes help the body fight off disease. They travel through the lymphatic system, a network of lymph nodes connected by vessels. They are also located in the blood stream, bone marrow, and other organs such as the spleen.

Lymphoma develops when immature lymphocytes start multiplying rapidly due to a genetic mutation or other alteration in their biology. This can lead to tumors in the lymph nodes or other organs.

There are two main types of lymphoma: non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. But within these two broad categories, there are many additional subtypes. At this time, scientists have identified more than 90 different subtypes of lymphoma.

What is non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL, is the most common form of lymphoma. It accounts for about 90% of the lymphomas diagnosed.

Patients are more likely to develop NHL in older age, although it can occur at any time.

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are divided further into two categories: B-cell lymphomas and T-cell lymphomas. B-cell lymphomas are far more common, occurring in about 80% of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

There are many different subtypes of B-cell and T-cell lymphomas. Some types are aggressive and will require immediate action. Patients with these types typically receive chemotherapy as a first course of treatment. They may also receive targeted therapies, immunotherapies and, in some cases, a stem cell transplant or CAR T-cell therapy.

However, there are also slow-growing, or “indolent,” types of NHL that can be watched for years without any treatment in a subset of patients.

Examples of B-cell lymphomas include:

  • diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
  • follicular lymphoma
  • primary mediastinal B cell lymphoma
  • mantle cell lymphoma
  • Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder
  • marginal zone lymphoma
  • Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia
  • Burkitt lymphoma

T-cell lymphomas include:

  • anaplastic large cell lymphoma
  • peripheral T cell lymphoma not otherwise specified
  • angioimmunoblastic lymphoma
  • hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma
  • extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma

In addition, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a rare form of lymphoma that affects the skin. Patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma often only require topical ointments as treatment.

What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Hodgkin disease, occurs in only 10% of the patients diagnosed with lymphoma. Physicians diagnose Hodgkin lymphoma if the patient has developed mutant cells called Reed-Sternberg cells.

Hodgkin lymphoma occurs in younger people more frequently than non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a highly treatable form of cancer, and many patients can be cured. Patients will usually undergo chemotherapy as an initial treatment. If the Hodgkin lymphoma recurs, stem cell transplants coupled with high-dose chemotherapy can be very effective at eliminating the disease.

There are two main types of Hodgkin lymphoma: classical and nodular lymphocyte predominant.