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About lymphoma in children

Lymphoma is a cancer (malignancy) of the lymphocytes (cells that are part of the body’s immune system). It can be found in the neck, abdomen and chest. Lymphoma is a rare cancer, making up 7% of childhood cancers.

Knowing the type of lymphoma your child has is important as that will affect treatment and prognosis (outlook).

What are the types of lymphoma?

  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Diffuse Large B Cell
  • Anaplastic lymphoma
  • Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

Each type of lymphoma requires special treatment determined by the cells of origin and staging (involvement of spread of disease – size, location, spread and cell type.)

Causes of lymphoma

The cause of lymphoma is largely unknown. There are certain risk factors that our doctors will consider such as age, family history, gender, weakened immune systems and more.

Our oncology experts will review your child’s symptoms and medical history, and test extensively to help you and your family understand your child’s diagnosis.

Signs of lymphoma

Symptoms of this cancer can include:

  • Swelling in the neck, groin or abdomen
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling unwell
  • Complaints of sickness

How is lymphoma diagnosed?

Your child will undergo some or all these tests to diagnose lymphoma:

  • Physical exam: We will check for swollen lymph nodes, including in the neck, underarm and groin, as well as a swollen spleen or liver.
  • Removing a lymph node for testing: We may recommend a biopsy procedure to remove all or part of a lymph node for testing.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests will allow us to count the number of cells in a sample of your blood.
  • Removing a sample of bone marrow for testing: A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy procedure may be taken. The sample will be analyzed to look for lymphoma cells.
  • Imaging tests: Tests may include CT, MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) to see if lymphoma is present in certain parts of the body.

How is lymphoma treated?

  • Supportive care: Some forms of lymphoma can grow slowly. We can work together to treat your child’s lymphoma signs and symptoms as they interfere with daily activities. We’ll also have your child undergo periodic tests to monitor their condition.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy fast-growing cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons, to destroy the cancer cells.
  • Bone marrow transplant: A bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, involves adding healthy bone marrow stem cells from somewhere else in the body or from a donor. It is infused into the blood where the cells will travel to the bones and rebuild bone marrow.
  • CAR-T: A specialized treatment called chimeric antigen receptor, CAR-T cell therapy takes the body's germ-fighting T cells, engineers them to fight cancer and infuses them back into the body.

Supportive care: Counseling and additional supportive care for patients with lymphoma and their families

Our comprehensive team provides care to support the unique needs of each patient and family, including:

What is the prognosis (survival outlook) for lymphoma? 

The prognosis depends on the type of lymphoma and the severity/spread of the disease. For example, the 5-year survival rate for children ages 0 to 14 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 90%. The 5-year survival rate for adolescents ages 15 to 19 is 89%.

The key to increasing positive outcomes is early detection. If you suspect your child might have symptoms of lymphoma, schedule an appointment to be seen by our nationally ranked cancer specialists.

Learn more about our cancer care