In the UK, more than 13,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma each year.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age, but your chances of developing the condition increase as you get older, with just over a third of cases diagnosed in people over 75.
Slightly more men than women are affected.
What causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
The exact cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown.
But your risk of developing the condition is increased if:
- you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system
- you take immunosuppressant medication
- you have previously been exposed to a common virus called the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever
You also have a slightly increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma if a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) has had the condition.
How non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed
The only way to confirm a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is by carrying out a biopsy.
This is a minor surgical procedure where a sample of affected lymph node tissue is removed and studied in a laboratory.
Treatment and outlook
There are many subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but they can generally be put into 1 of 2 broad categories:
- high-grade or aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma – where the cancer grows quickly and aggressively
- low-grade or indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma – where the cancer grows slowly and you may not experience any symptoms for many years
The outlook and treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma varies greatly, depending on the exact type, grade and extent of the lymphoma, and the person's age.
Low-grade tumours do not necessarily require immediate medical treatment, but are harder to completely cure.
High-grade lymphomas need to be treated straight away, but tend to respond much better to treatment and can often be cured.
The main treatments used for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are:
Overall, most cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are considered very treatable.