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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

If you have lymphoma, it means your body is making too many lymphocytes, which is a type of white blood cell. Your lymphocytes also live longer than they should.

This overload compromises your immune system and stops other cells in your blood from doing their job. There are two types of lymphocytes, B cells and T cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can develop from T cells, but a B cell origin is more common.

Lymphomas are grouped into stages based on how far they have spread in the body. This enables doctors to give the most effective treatment, because lymphomas of different stages will respond differently. In general, staging is applied to all types of lymphoma; however different systems are used for skin lymphomas and non-Hodgkin lymphomas in children.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma refers to any lymphoma that doesn’t have abnormal cells called “Reed-Sternberg” cells. These distinct, large cells are only seen in blood samples of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lymphoma Action has more information about the different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma on their website.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma facts

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Cell type: 
Lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight infections

13,700 / year in the UK

UK transplants:
730 in 2019

More common in elderly people – 50% of cases are in people over 70

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant

Other information:
Classified into ‘high’ and ‘low’ grades based on how quickly they develop

Lymphoma ActionBlood Cancer UK

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and stem cell transplants

Doctors will normally only offer you a transplant if you’ve had other treatment and the lymphoma has come back. You’re more likely to have an autologous transplant - when doctors use your own stem cells. This provides the best chance of keeping your lymphoma in remission for longer, and causes fewer complications, because a stem cell donor isn’t needed. 

You may then have a second transplant if you relapse. This will be an allograft transplant – when stem cells are donated by someone else.

Your medical team may consider offering you anallograft transplant straight away if:

  • You’ve already had treatment but it didn’t work
  • Your lymphoma has returned quickly
  • You have a type of lymphoma that doctors feel isn’t likely to respond well to normal chemotherapy.

Living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The doctors told me I could have treatment to reduce the non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Unfortunately after each treatment the cancer came back more aggressively. That’s when they said I needed a stem cell transplant.

Donna, who received a stem cell transplant to treat her non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2016. Read her story here

Many more patient stories are available in our Blogs section.

Information published: 09/02/21
Next review due: 09/02/24    

Related links

Preparing for a stem cell transplant

Having a stem cell transplant

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