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Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are an important part of your immune system.

Louise now in remission from Hodgkin lymphoma with her husband

Lymphoma at a glance

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphoma is also called a cancer of the lymphatic system.

In lymphoma, something goes wrong with the development of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are an important part of your immune system. The lymphocytes don’t work properly and can multiply out of control.

There are different types of lymphoma depending on how the cells are affected and how the cancer behaves. We have more detailed information on different types of lymphoma:

Fast-growing non-Hodgkin lymphomas:

Slow-growing non-Hodgkin lymphomas:

If you’re in your teens or twenties, and want to know how other people your age have coped with a lymphoma diagnosis, take a look at our blood cancer and young adults pages.

If you've just been told you have lymphoma, we're here for you, whenever you're ready. For useful information in the days and weeks after a lymphoma diagnosis, go to our just diagnosed section.

A common symptom of lymphoma is lumps. These are swollen lymph nodes (glands). You may get painless swellings in your neck, collarbone, armpit, groin or other parts of your body.

Some swollen lymph nodes can press on organs and cause pain in your chest, coughing, breathlessness, or pain in your stomach area.

Other symptoms include:

  • high temperature (fever)
  • unexplained weight loss
  • night sweats that soak your clothes and bedding.

We have more detailed information about lymphoma symptoms in general, and for specific types of lymphoma. You can choose a type of lymphoma at the top of this page.

These are some of the common tests for lymphoma. We have more specific information about tests if you choose a type of lymphoma above.

Blood tests

Your doctor will take samples of your blood to check your full blood count. This measures the number of each type of cell in your blood: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. They may also do other tests to check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Lymph node biopsy

In a lymph node biopsy, your doctor removes all or part of a lymph node during a short operation. Lymph nodes are glands that are found throughout your body. The sample will be sent to a laboratory to be looked at under a microscope.

Scans (or imaging)

You may have scans like MRI scans, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasound scans or x-rays. These are all done in different ways, but they all create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

General health and infection screening

You may also have other tests to check your general health, and tests to check for conditions such as HIV or Hepatitis B and C.

The treatments you have will depend on the type of lymphoma you have, how far it has spread (its stage) and whether you have symptoms.

We have more specific information about treatments if you choose a type of lymphoma above.

Read about some of the common treatments for lymphoma

There are a number of possible side effects of lymphoma treatment.

Some side effects are short-term and go away after treatment has finished, but others can last longer.

Read about the common side effects of lymphoma treatment

Some people will want to know how lymphoma will affect their future – this is known as your prognosis or outlook.

Your prognosis is individual to you and depends the type of lymphoma you have, what treatments you can have, and other things like your general fitness.

Ask your healthcare team about your prognosis if you want to know, because everyone is different. Your healthcare team know you and your individual situation.

Remember, your prognosis can also change over time, for example if you respond well to a treatment. Read our general information about things that might affect your prognosis.

You might find it difficult understanding or thinking about prognosis. Our Support Services Team is here to talk you through it, offer support, or simply listen.

Find out how other young adults have coped with a blood cancer diagnosis.

Our research in lymphoma has focused on improving treatments. Read about our research impact on lymphoma.

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