What are the stages of non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

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The tests you have after diagnosis are usually done to help the doctor to stage your cancer. Staging means finding out how much of your body is affected by the disease. Staging helps your doctor to decide the best treatment for you.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is usually described using numbers 1–4 and letters A, B and E, depending on your symptoms and how many lymph nodes or organs are involved.

Number stages

  • Stage 1 (I) One group of lymph nodes is affected on one side of your diaphragm or a single organ. 
  • Stage 2 (II) Two or more groups of lymph nodes are affected either above or below your diaphragm
  • Stage 3 (III) Lymph nodes are affected above and below your diaphragm
  • Stage 4 (IV) Lymphoma can be found in organs outside your lymphatic system or in your bone marrow

In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.

Early and late stage lymphoma

  • Early stage: This includes stage 1 and possibly stage 2.
  • Advanced stage: This is usually stage 2, 3 or 4.  It is possible to treat and cure advanced stage lymphoma.

Letter codes

  • A: You have no symptoms other than swollen glands
  • B: You have other symptoms, such as weight loss, fever and night sweats
  • E: The lymphoma is in unusual places outside your lymph nodes. For example, in your stomach. This is called extranodal lymphoma (the letter E stands for extranodal).

Staging can be hard to understand, so ask your doctor and nurse for more information if you need it.

For more information

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