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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. 

About 900 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma each year in Ireland. Lymphoma can occur at any age but it is more common in older people.

There are 2 main types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: low grade and high grade.


On this page:

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. 

In lymphoma white cells called lymphocytes (these can be B or T lymphocytes) grow out of control and do not die off as a normal cell would. The abnormal cells start to collect in your lymphatic system, particularly in your lymph nodes. They in turn cause swellings known as lymphomas.

Lymphoma most commonly affects the lymph nodes, but it can start in almost any part of the body, including the stomach, small bowel, skin, tonsils, thyroid or testicles.

Lymphatic system

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 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. 
  • Lymph vessels: A network of thin tubes that connect lymph nodes and transport excess fluid and waste from body tissues and filter bacteria and viruses
  • 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. 

More information about non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment

Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapies, stem cell transplant and drug treatment.

For more information about treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, visit our treatment page. For information about specific treatments, see the links below.

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