Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is
a cancer that develops in lymphatic tissue, which is found in many
places throughout the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen,
thymus gland, adenoids, tonsils and bone marrow. Approximately 1.5
million people world-wide currently live with NHL and each year an
estimated 300,000 people die from this disease. The incidence is
rising 3-7 percent per year, making it the second fastest-growing
cancer in the United States and the third fastest-growing in the
rest of the world. It occurs mainly in adults, most frequently in
people between 45 and 60 years of age.
What is NHL?
The lymphatic system, an important part of the immune system,
plays a major role in the body's defence against infection. While
non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL) starts in the lymphatic tissue, it
can spread to other organs.
NHL is generally classified into two equal groups:
Aggressive (intermediate/high grade) NHL is characterised by
rapidly dividing cancer cells of the lymph node region, and
requires immediate treatment. Without successful treatment, the
average life expectancy of patients with aggressive NHL is six
months to two years. Patients who are diagnosed and treated in the
early stages of aggressive disease are more likely to experience a
complete remission of several years' duration and are less likely
to have late recurrences.
Indolent lymphomas slowly divide and multiply in the body making
initial diagnosis more difficult. Patients may live an average of
10 years with the disease and an average patient with indolent NHL
can expect to be treated five to six times over their life span in
order to slow the disease progression. Standard treatments cannot
cure indolent disease.
Treatment of NHL depends on the type of tumour and how advanced it
is. Current treatments include 'watch and wait' until the cancer
causes symptoms, chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy,
radiation, biological treatments and bone marrow transplantation.
In patients with aggressive NHL, standard chemotherapy is
successful in three to four people out of 10.
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