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The above pages are intended to back up the information you get from the hospital, not to replace medical advice from a consultant.
What is Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
Lymphoma means cancer which starts in the lymphatic system. There are two main types – Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The two types are different and are treated differently. The information below is about non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system forms part of our immune system which helps the body fight against disease and infection. It consists of the spleen and bone marrow (amongst other things) and is connected with lots of vessels (or tubes) that are joined together by the lymph glands – also known as lymph nodes. Lymph glands swell when the body is fighting a virus for example and become noticeable under the armpits or in the neck or groin.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into two types:
• B-cell non Hodgkin’s lymphoma which occurs on the neck, head and tummy (abdomen)
• T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which occurs in the chest.
Who does it affect?
It affects children of all ages and is more common in boys.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is swelling in a gland. It is usually painless but lasts for some time. If the swelling is in the chest there may be symptoms such as a cough and breathing difficulties. If it is in the tummy then swelling is the most common symptom. Children may also have difficulties going to the toilet.
How is it diagnosed?
The main way to diagnose non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is to perform a biopsy on part of the swollen gland. MRI scans, X-rays and blood tests will help determine the position and spread of the disease.
How is it treated?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated using chemotherapy – often for a significant period of time. Its treatment will depend upon the stage of the disease – which means its size and spread. Parents can contact their child’s Consultant for specific details of the individual stages and how they relate to their child.
The aim of the treatment is to remove the cancer and a combination of drugs is usually given. T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is usually treated for two years, B-cell for less. Chemotherapy may also be injected into the fluid around the spinal cord to stop the lymphoma from spreading there. High-dose chemotherapy with accompanying stem cell support can be used if the disease does not respond to chemotherapy, or returns after initial treatment. Parents can discuss this with their child’s Consultant.
The side-effects associated with chemotherapy are tiredness, sickness and diarrhoea, temporary hair loss and infection, all of which can be managed with help from the child’s Consultant or nursing team. For more information about side-effects please visit our side-effects section.
Long term side-effects
Some children may go on to develop longer term side effects. Please remember that all children are different and only a small number develop long-term problems as a result of their treatment. Parents can talk to their child’s Consultant if they are concerned about them
All children will need to be monitored regularly at an outpatient's clinic.The Consultant will be looking for any signs that the cancer has returned (recurrent cancer) and checking the functions of major organs to make sure that they have not been affected by the cancer treatment.