Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that
develops in lymphatic tissue, which is found in many
places throughout the body, including the lymph nodes,
spleen, thymus gland, adenoids, tonsils and bone marrow.
Approximately 1.5 million people world-wide currently
live with NHL and each year an estimated 300,000 people
die from this disease. The incidence is rising 3-7
percent per year, making it the second fastest-growing
cancer in the United States and the third
fastest-growing in the rest of the world. It occurs
mainly in adults, most frequently in people between 45
and 60 years of age.
What is NHL?
The lymphatic system, an
important part of the immune system, plays a major role
in the body's defence against infection. While
non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL) starts in the lymphatic
tissue, it can spread to other organs.
generally classified into two equal groups:
Aggressive (intermediate/high grade) NHL is
characterised by rapidly dividing cancer cells of the
lymph node region, and requires immediate treatment.
Without successful treatment, the average life
expectancy of patients with aggressive NHL is six
months to two years. Patients who are diagnosed and
treated in the early stages of aggressive disease are
more likely to experience a complete remission of
several years' duration and are less likely to have
Indolent lymphomas slowly divide and multiply in
the body making initial diagnosis more difficult.
Patients may live an average of 10 years with the
disease and an average patient with indolent NHL can
expect to be treated five to six times over their life
span in order to slow the disease progression.
Standard treatments cannot cure indolent
Treatment of NHL
depends on the type of tumour and how advanced it is.
Current treatments include 'watch and wait' until the
cancer causes symptoms, chemotherapy, monoclonal
antibody therapy, radiation, biological treatments and
bone marrow transplantation. In patients with aggressive
NHL, standard chemotherapy is successful in three to
four people out of 10.