Font Size

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL)

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is cancer of the cells of the lymphatic system. In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system divide and grow without order or control, or old cells do not die as cells normally do.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can start almost anywhere in the body. It may occur in a single lymph node, a group of lymph nodes, or an organ such as the spleen. NHL can spread to almost any part of the body, including the liver, bone marrow, and spleen.

The incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has increased over the years, but experts don't know what causes NHL. The abnormal cell growth that happens with NHL may be linked to infections, exposure to something in the environment, or to a problem with the immune system. NHL is not contagious.

The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin. Other symptoms may include unexplained fever; night sweats; fatigue; weight loss; and red, itchy patches on the skin.

The chances of cure with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma depend on the stage of the cancer and what the cells look like under the microscope (histology) when the lymphoma is diagnosed. NHL is often treated with radiation or chemotherapy.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is different from and occurs more frequently than Hodgkin's lymphoma.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDouglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last RevisedApril 19, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Medical Dictionary