Cancer that starts in the lymphatic system

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes – glands that help the body fight infection. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in adults aged 65 and older, and is more common than Hodgkin lymphoma.

There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The two main sub-types are B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas (85% of cases) and T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas (15% of cases). NK-cell lymphomas are the rarest sub-type. Further characterization is made based on a biopsy, and this is very important because the treatment depends on the sub-type.

Some non-Hodgkin lymphomas grow very rapidly (aggressive), requiring immediate treatment. Others are slow growing (indolent) and do not necessarily require immediate treatment; patients can often be observed over time.


Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma can include:

  • Active surveillance, also known as observation
  • Chemotherapy and antibody therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Bone marrow transplantation (also known as stem cell transplantation)
  • CAR-T cell therapy, where a patient’s immune system is engineered to attack the cancer cells
  • Our team of specialists at Penn State Cancer Institute will discuss standard and experimental options with you and your family.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - also called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma - is a cancer of the lymph nodes, glands that help the body fight infection.


Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Painless swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck, armpit, groin or under the chin 
  • Fevers
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss


A biopsy of the affected lymph nodes will determine if you have the disease. This is a minor procedure done by a surgeon that causes little discomfort or risk to the patient. The tissue is examined under a microscope and tested to determine which type of cells are growing abnormally.

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