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Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (Professional)


General Information About Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Incidence and Mortality

Estimated new cases and deaths from NHL in the United States in 2011:[1]

  • New cases: 66,360.
  • Deaths: 19,320.

The NHL are a heterogeneous group of lymphoproliferative malignancies with differing patterns of behavior and responses to treatment.[2]

Like Hodgkin lymphoma, NHL usually originates in lymphoid tissues and can spread to other organs. NHL, however, is much less predictable than Hodgkin lymphoma and has a far greater predilection to disseminate to extranodal sites. The prognosis depends on the histologic type, stage, and treatment.

The NHL can be divided into two prognostic groups: the indolent lymphomas and the aggressive lymphomas. Indolent NHL types have a relatively good prognosis with a median survival as long as 10 years, but they usually are not curable in advanced clinical stages. Early-stage (stage I and stage II) indolent NHL can be effectively treated with radiation therapy alone. Most of the indolent types are nodular (or follicular) in morphology. The aggressive type of NHL has a shorter natural history, but a significant number of these patients can be cured with intensive combination chemotherapy regimens. In general, with modern treatment of patients with NHL, overall survival at 5 years is approximately 50% to 60%. Of patients with aggressive NHL, 30% to 60% can be cured. The vast majority of relapses occur in the first 2 years after therapy. The risk of late relapse is higher in patients with a divergent histology of both indolent and aggressive disease.[3]

While indolent NHL is responsive to radiation therapy and chemotherapy, a continuous rate of relapse is usually seen in advanced stages. Patients, however, can often be retreated with considerable success as long as the disease histology remains low grade. Patients who present with or convert to aggressive forms of NHL may have sustained complete remissions with combination chemotherapy regimens or aggressive consolidation with marrow or stem cell support.[4,5]

Radiation techniques differ somewhat from those used in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma. The dose of radiation therapy usually varies from 25 Gy to 50 Gy and is dependent on factors that include the histologic type of lymphoma, the patient's stage and overall condition, the goal of treatment (curative or palliative), the proximity of sensitive surrounding organs, and whether the patient is being treated with radiation therapy alone or in combination with chemotherapy. Given the patterns of disease presentations and relapse, treatment may need to include unusual sites such as Waldeyer ring, epitrochlear, or mesenteric nodes. The associated morbidity of the treatment must be considered carefully. The majority of patients who receive radiation are usually treated on only one side of the diaphragm. Localized presentations of extranodal NHL may be treated with involved-field techniques with significant (>50%) success.

In asymptomatic patients with indolent forms of advanced NHL, treatment may be deferred until the patient becomes symptomatic as the disease progresses. When treatment is deferred, the clinical course of patients with indolent NHL varies; frequent and careful observation is required so that effective treatment can be initiated when the clinical course of the disease accelerates. Some patients have a prolonged indolent course, but others have disease that rapidly evolves into more aggressive types of NHL that require immediate treatment.

Aggressive lymphomas are increasingly seen in HIV-positive patients; treatment of these patients requires special consideration. (Refer to the PDQ summary on AIDS-Related Lymphoma Treatment for more information.)

Related Summaries

Other PDQ summaries containing information related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) include the following:

  • AIDS-Related Lymphoma Treatment
  • Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment
  • Primary CNS Lymphoma Treatment

References:

  1. American Cancer Society.: Cancer Facts and Figures 2011. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2011. Also available online. Last accessed December 1, 2011.
  2. Armitage JO: Treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. N Engl J Med 328 (14): 1023-30, 1993.
  3. Cabanillas F, Velasquez WS, Hagemeister FB, et al.: Clinical, biologic, and histologic features of late relapses in diffuse large cell lymphoma. Blood 79 (4): 1024-8, 1992.
  4. Bastion Y, Sebban C, Berger F, et al.: Incidence, predictive factors, and outcome of lymphoma transformation in follicular lymphoma patients. J Clin Oncol 15 (4): 1587-94, 1997.
  5. Yuen AR, Kamel OW, Halpern J, et al.: Long-term survival after histologic transformation of low-grade follicular lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 13 (7): 1726-33, 1995.
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