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What is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

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Actress and activist Jane Fonda revealed she has cancer. More specifically, her diagnosis is non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. She already started six months of chemotherapy and reports that she is “handling the treatments quite well.” She added that she will continue her involvement with causes she cares so deeply about despite her diagnosis asserting, “I will not allow cancer to keep me from doing all I can.”

Fonda’s tenacity and hopeful spirit is also evident in her social media post that states, “This is a very treatable cancer. 80% of people survive, so I feel very lucky.”

We’re here to share the hope that you too can continue living your best life if you’ve been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma; indeed, it’s a treatable and beatable cancer, especially with early diagnosis and treatment. Read on for expert information and advice from our medical director and hematology oncologist, Rushang Patel, MD, PhD.

What is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Cancer arises when cells in any part of the body start to grow out of control. According to Dr. Patel, “Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL, is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. It usually starts in lymph nodes or tissue, but it can sometimes affect the skin.” NHL typically affects adults, but children can also get it.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The importance of early diagnosis and treatment of NHL can’t be emphasized enough. “While you may not exhibit obvious symptoms early on, there are signs that you should visit your doctor,” says Dr. Patel.

Here are the most common non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your armpits, neck and groin (painless)

What is My Prognosis if I Have a Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnosis?

Physicians often use survival rates as a standard way of discussing a person's outlook, or prognosis. These numbers can’t definitively tell you how long you will live, but they might help you better understand your prognosis. Dr. Patel says, “There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Patients often go into remission, meaning they do not have any symptoms and tests show they no longer have any signs of the cancer. Long term survival, and even cure, is possible for NHL depending on the sub-type.”

Even many aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas never come back, though some do return after a person has completed treatment. That’s why it’s important to follow your treatment plan and continuously monitor your progress with your care team by your side.

Treatment Options for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Treatment approaches for NHL depend on the type of cancer, how advanced it is, as well as your general state of health.

“Another important part of treatment for many patients is supportive care. This can help prevent or treat problems such as infections, low blood cell counts or some of the symptoms you experience,” explains Dr. Patel.

Depending on your unique circumstances, treatment may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
  • Immunotherapy, such as CAR-T therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted drug therapy

Whole-Person Cancer Care You Can Count On

When you’re looking for a treatment program to help you heal in body, mind and spirit, you can count on us to provide you with a caring multidisciplinary team, advanced treatment options with clinical trials, highly specialized oncologists and comprehensive support services. We’ll be by your side from diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and recovery.

Join us in wishing Jane Fonda a speedy recovery in whole health.

Learn more about our cancer care services here.

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