Types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

There are about 60 different subtypes of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Most subtypes fall into two main groups named for the cell where the lymphoma starts: B-cell lymphomas or T-cell lymphomas.

B-cell lymphomas make up most (about 85 percent) of the NHL cases in the United States.

The majority of B-cell lymphomas are either diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) or follicular lymphoma (FL).

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) accounts for about one out of every three cases of NHL. This type of aggressive NHL occurs mostly in people who are older. In rare cases it occurs in children and younger adults. The average age at diagnosis is mid-60s to 70 years old.

DLBCL usually starts as a quickly growing mass in a lymph node in the chest or abdomen, or in a lymph node you can feel, such as the neck or armpit. It can grow in other areas such as the intestines, bone, or even the brain or spinal cord. Although this is a fast-growing lymphoma, DLBCL usually responds well to treatment. It can sometimes be cured entirely with chemotherapy.

Follicular lymphoma (FL) accounts for nearly 20 percent of lymphomas in the United States. The average age for people with this lymphoma is about 60. FL rarely occurs in very young people. This lymphoma appears in many lymph nodes throughout the body and in the bone marrow.

FL is often slow-growing. It can be treated but is difficult to cure. This type of lymphoma may not require any treatment at first. Many people with FL live for a decade or more with this disease. Depending on certain factors, treatment may be delayed until the disease grows or the person begins to have symptoms. When needed, treatment is often effective. It may lead to a period of remission (when all signs of your cancer are gone) after which the cancer returns. In 25-60 percent of people with FL, their disease eventually turns into a more aggressive large cell lymphoma. This usually does not happen until quite some time after diagnosis, often years later.

Other subtypes of B-cell lymphomas include:

  • Mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue (MALT) lymphoma
  • Small cell lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia (SLL/CLL)
  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)
  • Mediastinal (thymic) large B-cell lymphoma
  • Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
  • Nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
  • Splenic marginal zone lymphoma
  • Extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
  • Intravascular large B-cell lymphoma
  • Primary effusion lymphoma
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma

T-cell lymphomas make up less than 15 percent of NHL cases in the United States.

T-cell lymphomas can be aggressive (fast-growing) or indolent (slow growing). Common subtypes of T-cell lymphomas include:

  • Peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified (PTCL-NOS)
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (Sézary syndrome and mycosis fungoides)
  • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma
  • Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma