Staging describes how many areas of the body are affected by lymphoma and where these areas are. This helps doctors plan your treatment.

What is staging?

The stage describes how many areas of the body are affected by lymphoma and where these are. This information helps doctors plan the right treatment for you.

Number staging

The stage of a lymphoma is usually described using numbers from 1 to 4.

Stage 1

There is one area of lymphoma only. This may be one group of lymph nodes or another part of the lymphatic system.

Stage 2

There are two or more areas of lymphoma on the same side of the diaphragm (the sheet of muscle underneath the lungs).

Stage 3

There are areas of lymphoma above and below the diaphragm.

Stage 4

There are areas of lymphoma outside and separate from the lymphatic system. For example, this could be in organs such as the bone marrow, liver or lungs.

Stages 1 and 2 are also called early-stage, limited lymphoma.

If stage 1 or 2 lymphoma has grown into nearby areas of tissue, this is called extra-nodal disease. The letter E may be added after the stage number to show it is extra-nodal disease, for example stage 1E.

Stages 3 and 4 are also called advanced lymphoma.

B symptoms

If you have any B symptoms, the letter B is added after the stage number, for example stage 1B. B symptoms are:

  • heavy, drenching night sweats
  • unexplained high temperatures
  • unexplained weight loss.

If you do not have any of these symptoms, the letter A is used instead, for example stage 1A.

Bulky disease

If an area of lymphoma is 10cm (4 inches) or more in diameter, this is called ‘bulky’ disease. The letter X may be added after the stage number, for example stage 1X.

About our information


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist; and Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

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