Health Alert:

COVID-19 Vaccine Information and Updates

Lymphoma

If you or a loved one has Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center offers the latest treatments for both.

Our goal is to provide effective targeted treatment that lets you live your life.

What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer. It occurs when abnormal white blood cells multiply and overwhelm the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is part of your immune system and includes your:

  • Lymph nodes
  • Bone marrow
  • Spleen

Doctors diagnose about 75,000 people in the U.S. with lymphoma each year.

Lymphoma often starts in the lymph nodes. But, because there's lymph tissue throughout the body, lymphoma can occur almost anywhere.

Types of Lymphoma Cancer We Treat

The doctors at UPMC Hillman treat all types of lymphoma.

The two most common types are:

  • Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sometimes called Hodgkin's disease, this type of lymphoma accounts for 95% of all cases. It occurs when the abnormal lymphatic cells grow and multiply. Hodgkin's tends to affect younger people between the ages of 15 and 35.
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin's affects people over 60. This cancer occurs when abnormal white blood cells multiply and may form tumors throughout the body. There are many types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Lymphoma Symptoms

Symptoms of lymphoma vary from person to person. They may also differ based on the type and stage of your cancer.

Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin.
  • Persistent fatigue.
  • Coughing, trouble breathing, or chest pain.
  • Itching.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Soaking night sweats.
  • Extreme, unexplained weight loss.

Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have lymphoma.

But if you have any of these symptoms for any length of time you should talk to your doctor.

Lymphoma Diagnosis

Often, when people visit the doctor for symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma, neither they nor their doctors suspect cancer at first.

Many lymphoma symptoms, such as enlarged lymph nodes, can be the result of an infection or other health issues.

Your doctor may try antibiotics or other simple treatments to see if the symptoms go away.

If your symptoms remain, your doctors may use one or more of the following tests to see if you have lymphoma:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will check if you have a fever, swelling in your lymph nodes, or other signs of cancer.
  • Blood tests. Your doctor will draw your blood to check the health and quality of your blood cells.
  • Bone marrow test. This tests for abnormal cells in a sample of your bone marrow. Your doctor may also use the test results to design your treatment.
  • Biopsy or surgery. Your doctor may suggest removing all or part of the node to learn if cancer is causing the node to swell.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Your doctor uses this test to see if lymphoma cells are in the fluid surrounding your spinal cord.
  • Organ function tests. These tests tell if your organs are healthy before starting treatment for lymphoma.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may use x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans to diagnose lymphoma.

Lymphoma Staging

Doctors use your test results to decide the stage of your cancer.

Staging helps show:

  • The location of cancer.
  • If your cancer has spread.
  • If lymphoma is affecting other parts of your body.

Lymphoma cancer stages run from 1 through 4.

Stage 1 is the least advanced, while Stage 4 is the most advanced.

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor guide your treatment plan.

Lymphoma Treatment

Your doctor will describe your treatment options, along with possible side effects.

You and your doctor will work together to plan your lymphoma treatment plan that may include:

  • Chemotherapy. Chemo kills abnormal cells that are overwhelming the lymphatic system. You may receive chemo through an IV or a pill.
  • Radiation. This lymphoma treatment option uses beams of energy to stop the growth of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy. This type of treatment uses your body's immune system to fight cancer.
  • Radioimmunotherapy. A treatment that uses your body's immune system to carry radioactive material to cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
  • Surgery. If cancer affects your lymph nodes, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove all or part of the affected lymph node.
  • Targeted drug therapies. These drugs kill cancer cells by focusing on certain abnormalities within the cells.
  • Stem-cell transplant. Before a stem-cell transplant, you will receive a high dose of chemo to kill your diseased bone marrow. Then the stem-cell transplant replaces your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.

What Is the Prognosis for Lymphoma?

Your prognosis will depend on:

  • Your type of lymphoma.
  • The stage of your disease.
  • Your response to treatment.

Early detection and treatment of lymphoma can mean a better outcome.

Risk Factors for Lymphoma

Common lymphoma risk factors include:

  • Age. People between 15 to 35 years old, and those over 55, may be at increased risk for Hodgkin's lymphoma. People over 60 may be at risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Certain viruses, like Epstein-Barr or HIV.

Contact UPMC Hillman About Lymphoma Care

  • Pittsburgh and southwest Pa. region. Call the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-864-6600.
  • Mechanicsburg and central Pa. Call UPMC Hillman Cancer Center At Rocco And Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion at 717-988-1308.