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Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are cancers that arise from lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell usually found in blood and lymph nodes. Lymphomas are solid masses that most often arise in the lymph nodes but can develop in other tissues. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Some grow very slowly and do not necessarily require immediate treatment. Others grow rapidly and must be treated immediately. Some types usually are cured; others are not.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas characteristically are associated with abnormalities of chromosomes. The way in which these abnormalities lead to lymphomas is a major focus of investigation at the Kimmel Cancer Center.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas usually are diagnosed by a biopsy of a lymph node or suspicious mass. Referred patients are seen by doctors who specialize in the treatment of this disease and closely related diseases. Pathologists review biopsy specimens to confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Other tests such as flow cytometry are undertaken to determine the extent of the disease, and the results along with the general health of the patient are taken into account in developing an individualized treatment plan. Complex cases are discussed by a multidisciplinary team including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and pathologists.
In some situations and with some types of lymphomas, observation alone is recommended initially. In most cases, radiation, chemotherapy, and in some instances, bone marrow transplantation are recommended. The doctor will discuss these options with the patient, and together they will choose an appropriate therapy.