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Microscopic image of follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of lymphocytes associated with enlarged lymph nodes. (Source: Shutterstock)

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)


Definition of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)


All malignant diseases of the lymphatic system (malignant lymphomas) that are not Hodgkin's disease are summarized under the collective term non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). This classification has largely historical origins. The diseases which are grouped under this generic term are highly diverse. This applies to the underlying genetic changes and immunological characteristics as well as to clinical manifestations. Accordingly, the treatment of NHL also varies widely.

NHL are divided into a B-type (about 80 percent of all NHL) and a T-type (20 percent), depending on whether the NHL originates from B-lymphatic or T-lymphatic cells. Rarely do NHL originate from the so-called NK cells. Currently, about 15 per 100,000 people develop the disease every year.

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

The initial symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas correspond to those of Hodgkin's lymphomas (however, histologically NO Hodgkin Sternberg-Reed cells are detectable). In many patients, however, other organs have already been affected at the time of diagnosis, especially the gastrointestinal tract and ENT region. Gastrointestinal problems are often the result of malignant infiltration.​

The following symptoms may occur: swelling of the lymph nodes, weight loss of more than ten percent in six months, recurrent sweating, unexplained fever. Bone marrow infiltration (and, as a result, detectable anemia and leukopenia in the blood count) and splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen) can also be signs of disease.

Diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

The diagnosis is made histologically on the basis of a biopsy of an affected lymph node.

In addition to histomorphological evaluation, special staining techniques are used to precisely classify the biopsy material obtained. In addition, an x-ray of the chest, sonography of the abdominal cavity, computer tomography of the neck, chest and abdomen as well as a bone marrow puncture to obtain the bone marrow histology and exclusion of a bone marrow infestation are all part of the diagnosis.

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