Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children
Non Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of your child’s body’s defense (immune) system, which protects the body from infections, germs, and diseases. NHL affects a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes.
There are different types of NHL. The kind of NHL your child has depends on the type of cells the disease affects and how quickly it grows and spreads.
What are the causes?
The cause of NHL is not known.
What increases the risk?
Risks factors for NHL include:
- Age. NHL is more common in older children.
- Gender. NHL is more common in boys.
- Being White.
- Having a weak immune system, especially after an organ transplant.
- Specific bacterial and viral infections, including:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Epstein-Barr virus.
- Having a history of radiation treatment for other cancers.
What are the signs or symptoms?
Symptoms of NHL may include:
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in your child’s neck, armpits, or groin.
- Sweating without cause or night sweats.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Swelling of your child’s face, legs, or belly (abdomen).
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Skin rash or itchy skin.
- Easy bruising and bleeding.
- Catching infections easily.
- Pale skin.
- Vision problems.
- Unexplained weakness.
- Loss of appetite.
- Abdominal pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Changes in personality.
How is this diagnosed?
The diagnosis of NHL may include:
- A physical exam and medical history.
- Chest X-ray.
- Testing of:
- Body tissue (biopsy) from your child’s lymph gland or bone marrow.
- Spinal fluid (lumbar puncture or spinal tap).
- Abdominal or chest fluid.
- Different types of scans, including:
- CT scans.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
- Gallium scan.
Your child’s cancer will be staged to determine its severity and extent. Your child’s health care provider does staging to find out whether the cancer has spread, and if so, to what parts of the body. Your child may need to have more tests to determine the stage of his or her cancer.
How is this treated?
NHL can be treated in different ways. The type of treatment depends on your child’s symptoms, the stage of NHL when your child was first diagnosed, and the speed at which it is spreading. Treatment may include:
- Chemotherapy. This uses medicine to destroy the cancer cells. This is the most common way to treat NHL in children.
- Radiation therapy. This uses radiation to destroy cancer cells.
- Biological therapy. This uses the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplantation.
- Blood or platelet transfusions. This treatment may be needed if your child’s blood counts are low.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Give medicines only as directed by your child’s health care provider.
- Make sure your child gets enough rest.
- Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your child’s health care provider. This is important.
- If your child is having chemotherapy:
- Make sure that you, your child, your household, and any visitors wash your hands often. This includes before meals, after being outside, and after using the toilet.
- Keep your child’s teeth and gums clean and well cared for. Use a soft toothbrush.
- Talk with your child’s health care provider about immunizations for your child and your household members.
- Ask about side entrances or separate waiting areas when visiting a health care facility. This helps your child to avoid exposure to infections.
- Use sunblock and clothing to protect your child from sun exposure.
Contact a health care provider if:
- Your child has a cough or cold symptoms, such as fatigue or a runny nose.
- Your child has a fever or chills.
- Your child has a sore throat.
- Your child has painful urination.
- Your child has diarrhea.
- Your child vomits.
- Your child has a skin rash.
- Your child is exposed to chickenpox or measles.
Get help right away if:
- Your child has trouble breathing or has chest pain.
- Your child has blood in his or her urine or stools.
- Your child who is younger than 3 months old has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.