Follicular Lymphoma

What is follicular lymphoma?

Follicular lymphoma is a type of blood cancer, and the second-most common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. It develops when the body makes abnormal B-lymphocytes - the lymphoma cells. B-lymphocytes are white blood cells that help the body fight infection. “Follicular” describes how the lymphoma cells cluster together in lymph nodes or other tissues. It usually occurs in people age 50 and older, and the average age at diagnosis is 59. It is slightly more common in women than in men. Follicular lymphoma often spreads to the bone marrow and spleen, but doesn’t usually affect organs and tissues other than the lymph nodes.
Even though most patients are diagnosed in later stages of the disease, prognosis is still good. There is a 70% chance of survival at the ten-year mark.
Follicular lymphoma may not cause any symptoms, as it is a slow-moving (indolent) disease. The most common symptom is a painless swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin. 
Diagnosis and staging
In order to diagnose follicular lymphoma, a doctor removes an enlarged lymph node and checks it for the presence of lymphoma cells. This will be followed by tests and scans to determine how many groups of lymph nodes have been affected, and if the cancer has spread anywhere else in the body. This is called staging, and a patient may be classified as stage I, II, III, or IV depending on the progression of the disease. 
There are many treatment options for follicular lymphoma. This type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma often comes back (recurs) after treatment, but usually responds well to more treatment. Treatment options for follicular lymphoma include:
  • Radiation therapy may be offered if the lymphoma is only in one or two groups of lymph nodes in the same area of the body. If it is more widespread and not causing symptoms, you may not need treatment immediately.
  • Chemotherapy uses anit-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. This is an important form of treatment for follicular lymphoma as it can often get the lymphoma into remission. Chemotherapy is often given in combination with a drug called rituximab, which is a monoclonal antibody. This class of drugs is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells.
  • Steroids may be given to individuals undergoing chemotherapy, and can help reduce feelings of sickness.
  • A stem cell transplant may be an option for some people if the lymphoma comes back after treatment or doesn’t respond to treatment.
  • Watchful waiting (active surveillance) may be offered since follicular lymphoma develops slowly and does not always need immediate treatment. Treatment may be started upon the appearance of symptoms or other signs of the disease progressing more quickly.
  • Follicular lymphoma is the most common indolent (slow-growing) non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, and second-most common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas overall.
  • Of the more than 72,000 cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that were expected to be diagnosed in 2016 in the US, approximately 20% were likely to be follicular lymphomas.
  • Median age at diagnosis is 60-65 years
  • The incidence of follicular lymphomas is low in China and Japan, while people of Jewish ancestry have a higher incidence.  
  • In the US, incidence is 2-3x higher in white individuals than it is in black persons.
about follicular lymphoma

  • "Not Found What You're Looking For?" Follicular Lymphoma - Understanding - Macmillan Cancer Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Lymphoma." National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Follicular Lymphoma Management Overview." Follicular Lymphoma: Practice Essentials, Etiology and Pathophysiology, Epidemiology. N.p., 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Follicular Lymphoma - Canadian Cancer Society." N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2017.
  • "Follicular Lymphoma." Lymphoma Information Network - Welcome. N.p., 14 Mar. 2010. Web. 24 May 2017.


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