Lymphomas and the lymphatic system

The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system. This helps protect us from infection and disease. The lymphatic system also drains fluid from the body’s tissues back into the blood. 


The lymphatic system
The lymphatic system

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Lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands) are an important part of the lymphatic system. There are groups of lymph nodes throughout the body, including in the: 

  • tummy area (abdomen)
  • chest
  • neck
  • armpit 
  • groin (where the top of your leg joins your body). 

They are connected by a network of tiny tubes called lymph vessels. 

A fluid called lymph travels through the lymph vessels. Lymph carries white blood cells called lymphocytes around the body to fight infections and disease. 

Lymphocytes are made in a spongy material in the middle of bones. This is called bone marrow. They start as undeveloped cells, called stem cells. They go through different stages until they are fully developed (mature), and ready to fight infections and disease.


Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Cancer is a disease of the body’s cells. Normally cells in our body divide and grow in a controlled way. But sometimes cells keep dividing and grow out of control. This is how cancer develops.

In lymphoma, white blood cells called lymphocytes become abnormal and grow out of control. Over time, there are enough of these cells to make a lump. The most common place for this to happen is in the lymph nodes. But lymphoma can also affect other parts of the body.

Different types of lymphoma

There are lots of types of lymphoma. Different types develop and are treated in different ways. A doctor can only find out your type of lymphoma by taking a biopsy and looking at it under a microscope.

The two main types of lymphoma are:

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