The lymphatic system is a network of tiny vessels extending throughout the body. They are often next to the veins and arteries but are even smaller than them. Scattered along these vessels are lymph nodes. The lymphatic vessels carry a clear fluid called lymph from the extremities and organs back to the blood circulation. The job of the lymphatic system is to fight infection and disease. A tumor of the lymphatic system is called lymphoma. The two main types are Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma (or Hodgkin’s disease) most often begins in the larger, more central lymph nodes of the body- those along the largest blood vessels of the neck, central chest, abdomen along the spine, and armpit and groin areas where the vessels return from the arms and legs.
- Hodgkin’s is very treatable and often curable; 80 percent of patients with Hodgkin’s live longer than 10 years after diagnosis.
- First described by Dr. Thomas Hodgkin in 1832, Hodgkin’s lymphoma was incurable until radiation therapy began to cure patients fifty years ago.
- Hodgkin’s is now usually treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, either alone or together.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL)
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a general term for about 30 different types of lymphoma that differ from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- NHL is eight times more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Since the 1970s, the number of people with NHL has doubled.
- All types of NHL are treatable, and many are curable.
- NHL is usually treated with chemotherapy, biologic therapy and/or radiation therapy. In some types of NHL a stem cell transplant may be part of treatment. Depending on your cancer and overall health, you might receive only one of these treatments or several in combination.