Lymphoma, the third most common type of childhood cancer, forms in the lymph system which is part of the body’s immune system. There are two main categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Doctors determine the type of lymphoma by looking at the cancer cells under a microscope.
In Hodgkin lymphoma, a certain kind of cell — called the Reed-Sternberg cell — begins to reproduce uncontrollably. It’s the overabundance of this specific kind of cell that distinguishes Hodgkin lymphoma from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
About 6 percent of childhood cancers are Hodgkin lymphoma and it’s most often found in adolescents ages 15 to 19.
Treatment for this cancer may include chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, surgery or a combination of these options.
There are three main types of childhood non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL). The types are based on the cell type and size of the cancer:
- Lymphoblastic lymphoma (accounts for about 20 percent of childhood NHLs)
- Mature B-cell lymphoma, including Burkitt lymphoma/leukemia (about 51 to 62 percent of NHLs)
- Large cell lymphoma (about 10 percent of NHLs)
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin lymphoma in children up to age 14, with about 500 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma depends on the type of lymphoma, and options may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery or stem cell transplant.
Why we need better, safer treatments:
The 5-year survival rate for children and adolescents with Hodgkin lymphoma is 95 percent. The 5-year survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma varies from 60 to over 90 percent depending on the type of lymphoma, the location and size of the tumor(s) and other factors.
With more children surviving lymphomas, doctors are now focused on finding safer, less toxic treatments to reduce the risk of late effects such as heart and cognitive issues, growth development and infertility.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic and National Cancer Institute