What are the Different Types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Although lymphoma diagnoses are often categorized as either Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there are many subtypes of each disease, with more than 50 subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma alone.

Most forms of the more than 70,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed in the U.S. each year can be broken up into two main subtypes: B-cell lymphomas and T-cell lymphomas. The subtype is based on whether the cancer cells develop in the body’s B-cells or T-cells, which are two forms of white blood cells. The maturity of the B-cell or T-cell also dictates the type of lymphoma that develops.

B-cell lymphomas

B-cells are a type of white blood cell that creates antibodies, which help fight infections. B-cell lymphomas make up approximately 85 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas, according to the American Cancer Society.

Some common types of B-cell lymphomas include:

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) – The most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. DLBCL is a fast-growing lymphoma. Chemotherapy is often very effective in this type of lymphoma.
  • Burkitt lymphoma – A fast-growing type of lymphoma that occurs most often in children and young adults. It may affect lymph nodes or other areas of the body including the jaw, central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, ovaries, or other organs.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia – A slow-growing form of lymphoma in adults arising from mature lymphocytes found in the blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes and/or the spleen.
  • Follicular lymphoma –  The most common slow-growing lymphoma in adults.  The disease is highly treatable and patients typically live many years with the disease.
  • Mantle cell lymphoma – An aggressive disease which presents in middle aged or older adults in the lymph nodes, spleen, blood, bone marrow and gastrointestinal system.
Linfeng Chen, PhD who led a research study on a type of B-cell lymphoma.
Linfeng Chen, PhD, led a research study on a type of B-cell lymphoma.

T-cell lymphomas

T-cell lymphomas are much less common than B-cell lymphomas. T-cells help control immune system responses and can attack foreign cells, cancer cells, and cells infected with a virus.

Types of T-cell lymphoma include:

  • Precursor t-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia – A rare and aggressive disease that can be categorized as lymphoma or leukemia. It is categorized as lymphoma if too many T-cell lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the lymph nodes and spleen with low-level involvement in the bone marrow. It is leukemia if lymphoblasts are found in the blood and bone marrow with or without lymph node and spleen involvement.
  • Peripheral t-cell lymphoma – A rare and fast-growing group of lymphoma that arises from mature T lymphocytes.

In general, symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can include swollen lymph nodes, drenching sweats, fever, weight loss and fatigue. These symptoms can vary depending on the patient and the diagnosis.

Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma depends on the subtype, but doctors may use a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy with or without radiation therapy. New treatments are also being tested through clinical trials.

More information on the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is available through the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center Adult Lymphoma Program