In the past 10 years, this disease has become easier to treat as more procedures are found to be effective. Overall, 50 to 60 percent of patients with non- Hodgkin lymphoma now live five years or longer without a recurrence.
Considering everyone with non-Hodgkin lymphoma —all people with all types of this cancer—the overall five-year survival rate is 69%. That means about 7 of 10 people are still living five years after diagnosis. The overall 10-year survival rate is about 60%.
Lymphomas are divided into two categories: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. About 12 percent of people with lymphoma have Hodgkin lymphoma. Because of breakthrough research, this once fatal diagnosis has been transformed into a curable condition.
Myth #1: A diagnosis of lymphoma is a death sentence. Treatments are very effective for some types of lymphoma, particularly Hodgkin’s lymphoma, when detected early on. In fact, medical advances over the last 50 years have made Hodgkin’s lymphoma one of the most curable forms of cancer.
Someone with NHL may experience symptoms that are common to most cancers generally, which affect energy, strength, appetite, breathing and responsiveness. The changes can be gradual, but crises can develop. People with NHL most often die from infections, bleeding or organ failure resulting from metastases.
Many symptoms of lymphoma are also present in other, less serious illnesses, such as an infection like the flu or a common cold. These shared symptoms might include swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, tiredness, and other signs.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes lymphoma. But it begins when a disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a genetic mutation. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly, causing many diseased lymphocytes that continue multiplying.
In a few cases, chemotherapy may be combined with steroid medication. Surgery isn’t generally used to treat the condition, except for the biopsy used to diagnose it. Overall, treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is highly effective and most people with the condition are eventually cured.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma grows and spreads at different rates and can be indolent or aggressive. Indolent lymphoma tends to grow and spread slowly, and has few signs and symptoms. Aggressive lymphoma grows and spreads quickly, and has signs and symptoms that can be severe.
Lymphoma most often spreads to the liver, bone marrow, or lungs. Stage III-IV lymphomas are common, still very treatable, and often curable, depending on the NHL subtype. Stage III and stage IV are now considered a single category because they have the same treatment and prognosis.
The treatment options and survival rates for lymphoma continue to improve. Depending on the type of stage 4 lymphoma you have, you may be able to cure your cancer. Even if you can’t cure it, treatments may help prolong your life and improve its quality. Living with stage 4 cancer of any kind requires support.
When someone has stage 3-4 lymphoma, it means that the cancer has spread to other areas of the body beyond the lymphoma nodes. Lymphoma most often spreads to the liver, bone marrow, or lungs. Depending on the subtype, these types of lymphoma are common, still very treatable and often curable.
Will I be in pain when I die? Your medical team will do all they can to lessen any pain you feel in your final days. No one can say for certain how you’ll feel but death from lymphoma is usually comfortable and painless. If you do have pain, however, medication is available to relieve this.
Stage 4 lymphoma means that cancer has spread to an organ external to the lymphatic system. The survival rates vary widely depending on an individual’s risk factors and type of cancer. The survival rate of stage 4 lymphoma is lower than that of the other stages, but doctors can cure the condition in some cases.
Most patients with Hodgkin lymphoma live long and healthy lives following successful treatment. Although slow growing forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are currently not curable, the prognosis is still good. In certain patients, treatment may not be necessary until there are signs of progression.