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What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. (click on the link below for more on the lymphatic system.)
Lymphomas are cancers that start in white blood cells called lymphocytes.
Cancer occurs when normal body cells get out of control, multiply and spread. With lymphomas, the cancer cells grow and gradually replace the healthy cells.
There are many types of lymphoma, and they are divided into two groups: Hodgkin lymphoma (previously known as “Hodgkin’s disease”) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). We will cover both in this section but they are treated differently.
What is the difference between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
The doctor will be able to tell whether someone has Hodgkin’s lymphoma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by looking at the cancerous cells in their blood under a microscope. Someone with Hodgkin’s lymphoma will have a particular type of cell (the Reed-Sternberg cell) in their blood which is not present in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Most lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphoma and only about 1 in 5 (20%) are Hodgkin lymphoma. Just over 1500 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK each year.
Around 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma every year.
Lymphomas account for around 10% of diagnosed childhood cancers. The information in this section is about treating adult lymphoma. We have a separate section about the treatment of children's cancers here. Also, please visit the "Where can I get more information?" page of this section for links to websites covering childhood lymphoma.