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What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of your lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. Read more about the lymphatic system (below).
Almost 900 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma each year in Ireland.
Lymphoma happens when lymphocyte white blood cells grow in an abnormal way. The abnormal cells start to collect in your lymphatic system, particularly the lymph nodes. This causes swellings, known as lymphomas.
Sometimes lymphomas happen in organs outside your lymphatic system, such as your stomach or thyroid gland.
What is the lymphatic system and what does it do?
The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system, which protects us from infection and disease.
Parts of the lymphatic system
- Lymph vessels: Transport excess fluid and waste from body tissues and filter bacteria and viruses
- Lymph nodes (or ‘lymph glands’): Contain infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are two types of lymphocytes, B-cells and T-cells. Lymph nodes often swell when they are fighting infection, which is a normal, healthy response. Lymph nodes are found mainly in the neck, armpit, groin and tummy.
- The spleen: Helps to filter out damaged cells from the blood stream and also to fight infection.
- Other body organs: Your tonsils, adenoids, thymus, spleen and bone marrow.
Sometimes cancer cells spread into lymph nodes or cancer can start in the lymph nodes themselves.
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