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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a blood cancer. It affects the lymphatic system, which carries lymph fluid throughout the body to help fight infections.

The other main type of lymphoma is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is less common.

To learn more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

What’s on this Page

You will find Cancer Care Ontario information, resources and tools for:

  • patients, families and caregivers
  • anyone interested in non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • healthcare providers

You will also find links to other organizations that provide information related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Prevention

There are several things you can do to lower your risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

Learn About Infections

A number of infections can lead to non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Epstein-Barr virus: This virus usually does not cause serious illness, but it can cause Burkitt’s lymphoma. It also increases the risk of other types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people whose immune system is compromised due to immunosuppressive drugs or HIV infection.
  • Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B virus: Chronic hepatitis C infection (and possibly chronic hepatitis B infection) also causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Human T-cell lymphotrophic virus, type 1: This virus increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (specifically adult T-cell lymphoma) and leukemia. Infection is most common in other parts of the world, such as south-west Japan and the Caribbean.
  • Helicobacter pylori: This bacterium increases the risk of a specific type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma, which occurs in the stomach.
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome): HIV and AIDS affect the body’s ability to fight off infections. People with HIV or AIDS are at an increased risk of certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Visit the Canadian Cancer Society’s Viruses and Bacteria page for more information about these infections and cancer.

Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals

If you work in certain industries or occupations, you may be exposed to some chemicals and pesticides that may increase your risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

These chemicals can increase your risk:

  • Trichloroethylene
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Dichloromethane1,2
  • 1,3-butadiene
  • Benzene
  • Herbicides: glyphosate
  • Insecticides: malathion, diazinon, lindane

For more information about workplace exposures and the risk of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, visit the Occupational Cancer Research Centre’s non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Resources page.

Protect Yourself at Work

Employers and employees have responsibilities for controlling and reducing exposure in the workplace. Your employer is responsible for putting in place engineering controls and administrative controls (e.g., using less hazardous alternatives, ventilation, enclosures, reducing time in exposed work situations) and providing training and personal protective equipment to employees where needed.

Things that you, as an employee, can do include:

  • being aware of the hazardous materials used in your workplace
  • following the health and safety regulations provided by your employer
  • as much as possible, working away from the source of exposure and minimizing the amount of time you handle the material
  • using the right protective equipment such as respirators, protective clothing, gloves, boots or face shields
  • practicing safe work practices like using local exhaust ventilation and partial enclosures where possible
  • avoiding eating or drinking in places where there are gases, fumes or dust
  • maintaining good hygiene and housekeeping practices, such as keeping surfaces at the workspace clean, decontaminating skin at breaks and at the end of work, and washing your work clothes regularly
  • using disposable or reusable work clothes that stay at the work site so you don’t bring them home

Diagnosis

During diagnosis, a person may need many tests to confirm the cancer. Waiting for test results to come back can be stressful. Talk to your doctor about managing stress during this difficult time.

For more information about diagnostic tests for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Treatment

Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma will depend on:

  • the type of cancer
  • the stage of cancer
  • which treatments and services the person chooses to have

Treatments may include:

  • drug therapy (chemotherapy)
  • radiation therapy
  • other treatment options
  • clinical drug trials
  • surgery

To learn more about types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Drug Therapy Information

You can learn more about specific cancer drugs using our patient information sheets. These provide information about cancer drug therapies, including what they are used for and how to manage side effects. To find patient information sheets, go to the Drugs page.

You can also see About Chemotherapy for general information about cancer drug therapy.

Quitting Smoking Can Help Your Treatment

It’s never too late to quit smoking. Whether you are scheduled to have surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy, quitting smoking can help your treatment work better. It also can reduce the chance of your cancer coming back or getting another form of cancer. For more information and resources, see Benefits of Quitting Smoking for People with Cancer.

Managing Symptoms and Side Effects

People with cancer may have symptoms related to their cancer or as a side effect of treatment. 

Our symptom management guides explain:

  • how to recognize symptoms
  • what to do and what not to do
  • when to contact the person’s healthcare team

The guides are available for patients and for healthcare providers. Each patient guide also comes with links to helpful resources like courses, books, videos and worksheets.

Our side effect information sheets offer tips for people going through side effects from chemotherapy treatment.

If you are a person with cancer, please remember that it’s important to discuss any symptoms or concerns with your healthcare team.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are scientific studies that test the safety and effectiveness of a medical treatment. Find clinical trials in Canada.

Palliative Care

Palliative care supports people with life-threatening illness and their families. The goal of this care is to relieve suffering so people can have the best possible quality of life. Palliative care should start when a person is diagnosed with a serious illness.

To learn more, go to the Palliative Care page.

After Treatment

When treatment ends, a person moves into a new phase of their cancer experience. For many patients, a lot of the after-treatment care will be given by healthcare providers in the community, like a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Follow-Up Care

Follow-up care is the care given after active treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is over. It focuses on:

  • helping the person recover from the cancer and treatments
  • finding cancer early if it comes back

To learn more about follow-up care, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Managing Ongoing Symptoms

A person may have symptoms from cancer for months or years after treatment has ended. These are called long-term effects or late effects.

If you have ongoing symptoms after being treated for cancer, you can find information on how to manage them in our Symptom and Side Effect Management guides.

To better understand the late or long-term effects of cancer treatment, visit the Canadian Cancer Society for a helpful overview.

End-of-Life Care

Each person has a different experience during their final months and days of life. Their symptoms may change as their illness continues, and their needs for information and support will be unique. Family members will also have questions, concerns and needs of their own.

If you are helping a family member through their final months of life, talk to your healthcare team about your questions and concerns as they come up. They can give you information and resources to support you and your family, and help you make decisions and plan for end-of-life care.

For more information, go to the Palliative Care page.

Facts

  • In 2013, 4,088 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma were diagnosed in Ontario, making it the 6th most common cancer. There were also 1,025 deaths from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, making it the 8th leading cause of cancer death.
  • The rate of new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma has been going up since the early 1980s, however the rate of death has been going down since 2000.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for approximately 91% of lymphomas diagnosed in Ontario.
  • Survival for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is average compared to other cancers. People diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are 68.9% as likely to survive 5 years after diagnosis compared to similar people in the general population.