Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

​Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system (which is responsible for fighting diseases) of your body. It causes cells to grow abnormally and form tumours from the small white blood cells of the body. There are several types of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma based on which cells they originate in and how quickly they spread. 

  • B cell lymphoma: this starts in the B cells which are responsible for producing antibodies to fight infection. This is the most common form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • T cell lymphoma: this starts in the T cells which are responsible for killing foreign bodies. 

There is no clear consensus on what causes this cancer. It develops when your lymphocytes instead of dying (and being replaced by new ones), continue to grow and divide into more lymphocytes. It is also more common than Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The following factors have been linked with the development of Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though some of these are still under study:

  • Increasing age

  • Males are more liable to develop Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • Contraction of certain viruses and bacteria

  • Immune system deficiency

  • Interaction with certain chemicals such as insecticides or pesticides

  • If you’ve had an organ transplant​

Symptoms for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma vary depending on where they originate, however some common symptoms are:

  • Swelling in neck, face, arms, underarm, groin or abdomen

  • Constantly feeling tired

  • Loss of weight

  • Itchy skin

  • Repeatedly falling prey to infections

  • Coughing or shortness of breath

  • Fever

  • Night sweats​

​If you find any of the signs and symptoms associated with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, consult your family doctor. Based on the diagnosis, he/she may refer you to a specialist. Alternatively, you can consult the staff of the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. 
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

To confirm the presence of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the following tests may be carried out:

  • Physical exam: this is carried out to check for swelling in the areas associated with Hodgkin’s lymphoma such as the neck, underarms, groin and liver

  • Imaging: X-ray, Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans may be used to detect the presence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • Blood and urine tests – these may be used in order to rule out the possibility of an infection or another disease. 

  • Lymph node biopsy: an affected lymph node is extracted to check for Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • Bone marrow biopsy: sample of your bone marrow is collected to check for Hodgkin’s lymphoma​

Treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is dependent on its type, stage and your overall health. In some cases where the lymphoma is slow growing, doctors do not recommend a treatment. Instead they choose to monitor the lymphoma to see if it is progressing or not. In cases where it is indolent, treatment may not be required at all.

For active Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, your doctor may recommend any one of these following procedures for treatment:

  • Chemotherapy – this involves administering drugs, either taken orally in the form of pills or injected directly into your bloodstream, with aim to destroy cancerous cells. This form of treatment may be used alone, or alongside other forms of treatment options. 

  • Radiation therapy – this form of treatment used powerful energy sources, such as X-rays, in order to shrink large tumours prior to surgery, to eliminate cancer cells that may still remain following surgery, or in order to reduce the symptoms of cancer. 

  • Stem cell transplant - this involves using strong chemotherapy drugs to first kill the stem cells leading to diseased lymphocytes. Your blood will then be infused with healthy adult blood stem cells that have been received from a donor, which will travel to your bone marrow and start to make healthy blood cells.

  • Monoclonal antibodies - antibodies describe proteins that are made by your immune system which help to fight off infections. Monoclonal antibodies are man-made versions of antibodies which may be designed to attack a particular target.  

  • Immune therapy – these are biological therapy drugs that are administered in order to assist your body’s immune system to fight cancer. ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

​Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.