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What is lymphoma?

Lymphomas refers to types of cancer that begin in the lymphatic system (the various lymph glands around the body).

When you have lymphoma, large numbers of abnormal lymphocytes are made. These abnormal lymphocytes replace some of your normal lymphocytes. This can affect your immune system and the way your body fights infections.

There are two main types of lymphoma, which spread and are treated differently:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
    • Accounts for about 90 per cent  of lymphomas
    • Most commonly occurs in a lymph node but it can also occur in the liver, spleen, stomach or bones. There are more than 60 sub-types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and they vary in how fast they grow and spread, and how sick people feel.
    • There are two classifications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: B-cell lymphomas which account for around 80 per cent of lymphomas, and T-cell lymphomas.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
    • Sometimes called Hodgkin disease.
    • There are two types of Hodgkin lymphoma: classical Hodgkin lymphoma which makes up about 95 per cent of cases and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lymphomas are the sixth most common form of cancer overall (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).

The risk of being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma by age 85 is one in 39. The risk of being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma by age 85 is one in 414.

This information is reviewed by

This information was written and last reviewed in September 2020 by Cancer Council SA's experienced information team with support from national Cancer Council publications.