Does Lymphoma Spread Quickly?

Ask a Doctor

My aunt was just diagnosed with lymphoma. Her doctors say they found it relatively early, and she will start chemotherapy right away. Does lymphoma spread quickly? Is lymphoma a fast growing cancer?

Doctor’s Response

Adult Hodgkin lymphoma can usually be cured if found and treated early. Some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma spread more quickly than others do. Most non-Hodgkin lymphomas that occur during pregnancy are aggressive. Delaying treatment of aggressive lymphoma until after the baby is born may lessen the mother's chance of survival. Immediate treatment is often recommended, even during pregnancy.

Adult Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymph system, part of the body's immune system. The immune system protects the body from foreign substances, infection, and diseases. The lymph system is made up of the following:

  • Lymph: Colorless, watery fluid that carries white blood cells called lymphocytes through the lymph system. Lymphocytes protect the body against infections and the growth of tumors.
  • Lymph vessels: A network of thin tubes that collect lymph from different parts of the body and return it to the bloodstream.
  • Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped structures that filter lymph and store white blood cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are located along the network of lymph vessels found throughout the body. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the neck, underarm, abdomen, pelvis, and groin.
  • Spleen: An organ that makes lymphocytes, filters the blood, stores blood cells, and destroys old blood cells. It is located on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach.
  • Thymus: An organ in which lymphocytes grow and multiply. The thymus is in the chest behind the breastbone.
  • Tonsils: Two small masses of lymph tissue at the back of the throat. The tonsils make lymphocytes.
  • Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue in the center of large bones. Bone marrow makes white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Lymph tissue is also found in other parts of the body such as the stomach, thyroid gland, brain, and skin. Cancer can spread to the liver and lungs.

Lymphomas are divided into two general types: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This summary is about the treatment of adult Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma can occur in both adults and children. Treatment for adults is different than treatment for children. Hodgkin lymphoma may also occur in patients who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); these patients require special treatment.

Hodgkin lymphoma in pregnant women is the same as the disease in nonpregnant women of childbearing age. However, treatment is different for pregnant women. This summary includes information about treating Hodgkin lymphoma during pregnancy.

Most Hodgkin lymphomas are the classical type. The classical type is broken down into the following four subtypes:

  • Nodular sclerosing Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Lymphocyte depletion Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Lymphocyte-rich classical Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Prognosis

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The patient's signs and symptoms.
  • The stage of the cancer.
  • The type of Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Blood test results.
  • The patient's age, gender, and general health.
  • Whether the cancer is recurrent or progressive.

For Hodgkin lymphoma during pregnancy, treatment options also depend on:

  • The wishes of the patient.
  • The age of the fetus.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Prognosis

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer.
  • The type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • The amount of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the blood.
  • Whether there are certain changes in the genes.
  • The patient's age and general health.
  • Whether the lymphoma has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

For non-Hodgkin lymphoma during pregnancy, the treatment options also depend on:

  • The wishes of the patient.
  • Which trimester of pregnancy the patient is in.
  • Whether the baby can be delivered early.

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References
SOURCE:

United States. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. "Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®) -- Patient Version." Apr. 20, 2017. <https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/
patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq>.