What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

This section is for teenagers and young adults. It is about a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

We also have info about non-Hodgkin lymphoma for people of all ages.

Treatment for NHL has a very good success rate. Many teenagers and young adults with NHL are cured.

NHL is a cancer of the lymphatic system. This system helps protect the body against infection and disease. 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. In lymphoma, white blood cells called lymphocytes become abnormal and grow out of control. These lymphocytes can build up in one part of the body and make a lump (tumour).

There are lots of different types of NHL. Different types develop and are treated in different ways. We have more information about the types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This information is written for people of all ages.

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

One of the most common symptoms of NHL is a lump, where a lymph node is swollen. This is usually in the neck, armpit or groin. But other areas of lymph nodes can be affected and cause symptoms too. The lump is not usually painful, but some people may find that it aches.

Other symptoms may include:

  • heavy drenching sweats, especially at night
  • unexplained high temperatures
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tiredness
  • a cough or breathlessness
  • tummy pain
  • feeling full and having no appetite
  • an itch all over the body that doesn’t go away.

Most of these symptoms can also be caused by other illnesses. For example, swollen lymph nodes, high temperatures and sweats may be caused by an infection. But if you have any of these symptoms or are worried about NHL, go to see your GP. If they think you could have NHL, they can arrange tests or arrange for you to see a specialist doctor.

Causes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

We don't know what causes NHL in most people, but research is going on to try to find out. Remember that nothing you’ve done has caused it.

NHL is not infectious and cannot be passed from person to person.

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