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Basics of Lymphoma.

General overview of lymphoma and how it’s treated.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (sometimes called lymphoma) starts in the white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of the immune system. According to the American Cancer Society®, lymphoma accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers in the United States. It is estimated that nearly 75,000 people will be diagnosed with lymphoma in 2018.1

Lymphoma affects the body’s lymph system, which moves fluids and helps the body fight infection. Because the lymph system is found throughout the body, lymphoma can happen almost anywhere in the body. The most common sites are:

  • Lymph nodes
  • Spleen
  • Bone marrow
  • Thymus gland
  • Adenoids or tonsils
  • Digestive system

There are two main types of cells in the lymph system in which cancer can develop:

  • B lymphocytes (also called B cells), which help the body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies. Antibodies attach to viruses and bacteria, marking them for destruction by the immune system. Most lymphomas develop in B lymphocytes.
  • T lymphocytes (also called T cells), which destroy viruses, bacteria and other invaders that shouldn’t be in the body, and help to boost or slow down other types of immune cells.

Most lymphomas can be grouped into one of two categories:

  • Indolent, or slow-growing, lymphomas sometimes don’t need treatment right away. Your doctor may decide to watch (active surveillance) and wait to treat your lymphoma when it shows signs that it’s starting to grow or spread.
  • Aggressive lymphomas can grow and spread quickly and need to be treated right away.

Regardless of which category they fall into, all lymphomas can spread to other parts of the lymph system if not treated. They can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, brain, or bone marrow.

How lymphoma is treated depends on the type and extent (stage) of the cancer, whether it has spread, and your overall state of health. Common treatments are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted drugs, which focus on keeping specific types of cancer cells from growing
  • Immunotherapy, which helps the immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells
  • Stem cell transplant (also called a bone marrow transplant)

Because most treatments for cancer have side effects, it’s important to take care of yourself both before and during treatment. Things you can do to make treatment easier include:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Staying physically active
  • Staying connected with family and friends

If you have any questions about your treatment, or have concerns about side effects, talk to your doctor or call your CVS Specialty CareTeam.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.

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1American Cancer Society® Website. Accessed October 3, 2018.