Children's Hospital Colorado

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

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What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is the body's disease-fighting network. It includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. White blood cells within the lymphatic system called lymphocytes change and grow out of control.

There are many types of lymphoma, but they are usually divided into two main categories: Hodgkin lymphoma (also called Hodgkin’s disease) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). Lymphoma types are based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope and how the disease progresses.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma most often occurs in adults, but some types can occur in children. It usually occurs in children over 3 years of age and most often occurs in boys.

The most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that occur in children include the following:

  • Lymphoblastic lymphoma
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Large cell lymphoma

These types of lymphoma grow quickly, and it’s important to find out which type a child has because the treatment for each type is different.

What causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

There are no known causes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but the following may increase the risk:

  • A weak immune system caused by an inherited immune deficiency syndrome at birth, organ transplant medicines or HIV/AIDS
  • Infection by a virus such as the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis, commonly called “mono”
  • Exposure to radiation

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