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Children's Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL)

This disease causes malignant cells in the lymphatic system to grow. Since lymph tissue is found throughout your child’s body, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can start in almost any part of their body and spread to almost any part of their body.

NHL can be fast growing or slow growing. About 500 cases of pediatric non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are diagnosed in the United States annually, and in children 14 and younger with lymphoma, two-thirds have non-Hodgkin’s.

This lymphoma is uncommon in children 3 and younger. Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas account for about 8 percent of childhood cancers. In children, doctors usually find one of four types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Burkitt lymphoma; large cell lymphoma; T-cell lymphoma; or anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

What is the lymph system?

This is part of your child’s immune system. Lymph, a colorless fluid, carries white blood cells called lymphocytes throughout their body. Lymphocytes protect them from infection and the growth of tumors.

The lymph system includes lymph vessels to carry the fluid; lymph nodes which store the white blood cells; the spleen which filters blood, stores blood cells and destroys old blood cells; the thymus, where lymphocytes grow; tonsils which make lymphocytes; and bone marrow which makes white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Your child’s lymphocytes are divided into B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes. B cells protect them from bacteria and viruses, and they develop into specialized cells that produce antibodies (plasma cells).

Different types of T cells have different jobs from destroying some kinds of bacteria, viruses or fungi to influencing other immune system cells to be more active or less active. Most non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas start in the B cells.

Can my child survive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?

The short answer is yes. Because of advances in treatment, the statistics below may be even better if your child is diagnosed today. These numbers are encouraging. It’s rare for this disease to recur after five years, so if a child with non-Hodgkin’s survives five years after treatment, many specialists view them as having been cured.

Doctors list the survival rate for non-Hodgkin’s in a range since they have used several studies of different population groups and these groups were treated with ever-better therapies over the five years studied:

  • Five-year survival rates range from 70 percent to more than 90 percent for children with Burkitt lymphoma, lymphoblastic lymphoma and B-cell lymphomas.
  • Five-year survival rates range from 55 percent to 75 percent for children with anaplastic large cell lymphomas. Children 15 and younger tend to do slightly better than those who are older.

At Children’s Cancer Center, doctors don’t really look at those numbers, but at your child and his or her chances of survival. Each child is different, and here the treatment will be tempered to meet the physical, medical and emotional needs of your child.

Parents should know statistics will not drive the outcome for your child. Each person is different so statistics cannot determine an individual’s outcome. Your doctors will discuss your child’s specific lymphoma and other health conditions that may affect their outcome.

Your child's care team

Hematologists/oncologists are doctors who specialize in blood and lymphatic disorders and with cancers.

At Children’s Cancer Center they also specialize in working with sick children and their families. Together, with a large group of other doctors, specialists and support personnel, they work to help your child recover.

Others on this team include nurse practitioners, pathologists, radiologists, transfusion medicine specialists, psychologists, radiation oncologists, and nurses with experience in blood and lymphatic disorders, medical technologists, counselors, child life specialists, teachers, dietitians and social workers.

Some team members you will see regularly. Others you may never meet.

What we do

Your child’s cancer care team at Children’s Cancer Center is part of Batson Children’s Hospital and the Cancer Institute, both part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

This pediatric team specializes in treating cancers which start in your child’s lymphatic system. In fact, this is the only place in the state you can receive some treatments. For example, this cancer care team operates the only bone marrow and stem cell transplant unit for children in the state, is one of only four places in the state to offer apheresis and has a blood bank on site to help treat your child.

Doctors also can offer your child the opportunity to enroll in clinical trials which test new treatments for many cancers. Doctors will take into consideration your child’s age, the type of cancer your child has, how advanced it is and other conditions they may have in making recommendations for their treatment.

Most of your child’s doctors also teach the state’s next generation of caregivers and do research on new ways to earlier detect, diagnose and treat blood and lymphatic cancers. They know the latest developments in treating these cancers and use them every day to help Mississippi children recover.