Lymphoma blood cancers

Leuka blood cancer researchers in the laboratory

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands/nodes spread throughout the body and plays a vital role in the immune system. The network of vessels carries a clear fluid called lymph that contains the infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes.

In lymphoma, the lymphocytes start to multiply in an abnormal way and begin to collect in the lymphatic system. The abnormal lymphocytes can collect in any part of the body but often accumulate in lymph nodes causing swellings in the neck, armpits or groin. The affected lymphocytes lose their infection-fighting properties, resulting in vulnerability to infection.

In 2014, there were over 5000 deaths in the UK from lymphoma (14 people every day).

There are two main types of lymphoma:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Hodgkin lymphoma

The two types are classified as different diseases. They are very similar in many ways but their respective treatments are different. Hodgkin lymphoma is the rarer cancer of the two, and roughly 85% or more of lymphoma cases are non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Who is affected by lymphoma?

Lymphoma can occur at any age although most people diagnosed are between the ages of 15 and 34 or over 60. It affects slightly more males than it does females.