Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma image

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, a network of glands and vessels throughout the body, making up part of your immune system1
  • Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell in the lymphatic system that help the body to fight infection2
  • The main types of lymphocytes are:
    • B cells2
    • T cells2
  • In non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the lymphocytes multiply abnormally1

Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

  • There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma,2,3 the main types are listed below, according to whether they affect B cells or T cells
  • The following lymphomas, listed in order of prevalence, affect the B cells:4
    • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
    • Follicular lymphoma
    • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia/small lymphocytic leukaemia
    • Mantle cell lymphoma
    • Marginal zone B-cell lymphomas
    • Burkitt lymphoma
    • Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, also known as Waldenstrom macroglobulinaemia
    • Hairy cell leukaemia
    • Primary central nervous system lymphoma
  • The following lymphomas affect the T cells:4
    • Precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukaemia
    • Peripheral T-cell lymphomas

Who gets non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age, but is more common in people aged 65 years or older5
  • It is slightly more common in males than in females5
  • It is the 10th most common cancer worldwide6
  • Nearly 386,000 new cases were diagnosed worldwide in 20126

Screening, detection, and diagnosis

  • The following tests are used to diagnose non-Hodgkin lymphoma:
    • Blood and urine tests7
    • Imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, CT, and PET scan7
    • A biopsy taken from a lymph node7
    • A bone marrow biopsy7

Patient guidelines

A patient guideline is a document containing information for patients and their families about their disease and the treatment options available to them

Click here to see the European patient guideline on follicular lymphoma8

Local support groups

Contacting a support group may help you during diagnosis and treatment and afterwards


Click here for information on the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Europe9



  1. NHS Choices. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Accessed November 2015.
  2. American Cancer Society. What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Accessed November 2015.
  3. Cancer.net. Lymphoma - non-Hodgkin - subtypes. Accessed November 2015.
  4. American Cancer Society. Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Accessed November 2015.
  5. Cancer Research UK. Definite risk factors for non Hodgkin lymphoma. Accessed November 2015.
  6. Cancer Research UK. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) incidence in Europe and worldwide. Accessed November 2015.
  7. Mayo Clinic. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Accessed November 2015.
  8. European Society for Medical Oncology. ESMO clinical practice guidelines: haematological malignancies. Accessed November 2015.
  9. World Health Organization. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Accessed November 2015.