Lymphoma is a kind of cancer that begins in lymphoid tissue. Your lymph system includes collections of lymph tissue (in lymph nodes or in certain organs) and vessels that carry liquid called lymph. Its main role is to help fight infection. It also helps maintain the fluid balance in different parts of the body by bringing excess fluid (in the form of lymph) back into the bloodstream.
The two main types of lymphatic system cancer are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma is often called Hodgkin disease. And non-Hodgkin lymphoma is often called lymphoma. Both of these lymphomas start in white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells are made and stored in the lymph nodes (pea-sized collections of immune cells found throughout the body) and in some other organs in the body.
People with non-Hodgkin lymphoma now have more treatment choices and more hope for survival than ever before. Doctors keep finding new treatments for lymphoma and ways to help people with it have a better life. Your doctor can use a biopsy to tell the type of lymphoma you have, but it's likely you'll need other tests to learn about how far the lymphoma has progressed, which is called the stage.
To decide the best course of treatment for you, your health care team needs to know as much as they can about you and your lymphoma. This may involve getting some tests. And you may need to work with more than one doctor or other type of health care expert.
Your health care team will likely include a hematologist (a doctor specializing in blood diseases) and/or an oncologist (a doctor specializing in cancer), as well as an oncology nurse. The team will answer any questions you may have and help you through each of the steps you'll take before, during, and after treatment. Your team will let you know what tests you need and the results of those tests. They'll guide you in making treatment decisions.
How quickly you begin treatment, and even whether you have treatment at all, depends on how fast your lymphoma is growing. But, in most cases, you have time to have more tests, if necessary. You also have time to talk with your doctor about treatment choices, get a second opinion, decide about treatment, and prepare yourself and your loved ones.