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Experts at the University of Chicago Medicine provide exceptional care for all forms of lymphoma. Lymphoma refers to a family of cancers in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes the organs, tissues and vessels in the immune system responsible for fighting disease and infection throughout the body. When lymphocytes (the white blood cells of the lymphatic system) undergo a malignant change, they abnormally reproduce, creating tumors and crowding out healthy cells.
There are more than 70 types of lymphoma. Some are slow-growing (also referred to as low-grade or indolent) while others are fast-growing (referred to as high-grade or aggressive). The causes of lymphoma are unknown, but certain factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing the disease.
Lymphomas are divided into two categories: Hodgkin lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin disease or HL) is the less common form of lymphoma, affecting about 9,000 adults and children in the United States each year.
Hodgkin lymphoma can develop anywhere in the body where lymphocytes are found. But it most often begins in lymph nodes in the chest, neck or under the arms. HL has characteristics that differentiate it from all of the other types of lymphoma, most notably the presence of a cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. A Reed-Sternberg cell (named for the two scientists who discovered it) is a large, atypical cell that does not protect the body from infection. When it abnormally multiplies, it often forms a tumor within a lymph node and attracts inflammatory cells around it.
Treatment for HL may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. In certain cases, a stem cell transplant may be recommended, especially if the disease does not respond to initial treatment or returns despite an initial response to therapy.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) affects more than 70,000 adults and children each year.
NHL comprises a varied group of 60 lymphomas, with two major sub groups: B-cell lymphoma and T-cell lymphoma. B-cell NHL is more common, accounting for about 80 percent of all cases.
Each type of NHL is treated differently based on the type of cancer cell and its rate of growth. In some cases, surgery is necessary for diagnostic purposes. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or immunotherapy. Blood and bone marrow stem cell transplantation may also be recommended. CAR T-cell therapy, a revolutionary treatment that supercharges the body's blood cells to defeat cancer is showing great promise for lymphoma. UChicago Medicine was the first hospital in Illinois to offer this breakthrough form of immunotherapy for certain types of hard-to-treat blood cancers.
Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that occurs when malignant lymphocytes are found in the brain, spinal cord or cerebrospinal fluid. It usually does not spread outside of the central nervous system.
Management of primary CNS lymphoma requires an experienced multidisciplinary team. Treatment may include specialized chemotherapy, radiation therapy and steroid therapy.
Cutaneous lymphoma is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that begins in the white blood cells and affects the skin. Symptoms resemble those of other skin conditions — scaly patches, plaques or bumps on the skin — making this disease difficult to diagnose. At UChicago Medicine, a team of dermatologists, oncologists and pathologists collaborate to determine the best course of treatment for each patient affected by this disease.