Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has about 60 subtypes classified by the World Health Organization (WHO). It's important to know your subtype since it plays a large part in determining the type of treatment you'll receive. You should consider getting a second opinion of your diagnosis from a hematopathologist.
NHL subtypes are classified by certain factors such as the type of lymphocyte they developed in. The two major subtypes are:
- B-cell lymphoma
- T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell lymphoma
Most people (85 percent) have the B-cell lymphoma type. A small percentage of people have a type of NHL that falls into a third group: immunodeficiency-associated lymphoproliferative disorders.
Some of the subtype names relate to the lymph node areas ("follicle," "mantle" and "marginal" zones) they appear to originate in.
Listed below are some subtypes of B-cell and T-cell and NK lymphomas. The most common subtype is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which makes up about 30 percent of all NHL cases in the United States.
B-Cell Lymphoma Subtypes
- Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
- Follicular lymphoma
- Mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue (MALT) lymphoma
- Small cell lymphocytic lymphoma-chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Mantle cell lymphoma. (See the free LLS fact sheet, Mantle Cell Lymphoma Facts, for more information.)
- Mediastinal (thymic) large B-cell lymphoma
- Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma-Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. (See the free LLS fact sheet, Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Facts, for more information.)
- Nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
- Splenic marginal zone lymphoma
- Extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
- Intravascular large B-cell lymphoma
- Primary effusion lymphoma
- Burkitt lymphoma-Burkitt leukemia
- Lymphomatoid granulomatosis
T-Cell and Natural Killer Cell Lymphoma Subtypes
- Peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified. (See the free LLS fact sheet, Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma Facts, for more information.)
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (Sézary syndrome and mycosis fungoides). (See the free LLS fact sheet, Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Facts, for more information.)
- Anaplastic large cell lymphoma
- Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma
- NK-cell lymphoma
- Hepatosplenic lymphoma
Doctors classify the NHL subtypes into categories that describe how rapidly or slowly the disease is progressing:
- Aggressive NHL, also called fast-growing or high-grade, makes up about 60 percent of NHL cases in the United States. The most common aggressive subtype is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
- Indolent NHL, also called slow-growing or low-grade, makes up about 40 percent of NHL cases in the United States. The most common indolent subtype is follicular lymphoma.
Some patients have "intermediate grade" disease, which develops at a speed somewhere between indolent and aggressive. And, sometimes, indolent NHL can "transform" to aggressive NHL.