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About Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Cancer – Prognosis and Outlook

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Key Statistics Relating to Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is an aggressive and diffuse type of cancer that grows within a child’s immune system, specifically within a type of white blood cell known as a lymphocyte. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma accounts for about 5% of all childhood cancers (Hodgkin Lymphoma accounts for around 3% of all childhood cancers). In general, the risk of NHL decreases with age; it is uncommon in children under the age of 3 and over the age of 14. It is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls. In children, there are three distinct types of NHL: Lymphoblastic lymphoma (LBL), Burkitt lymphoma (also called small, non-cleaved cell lymphoma), and large cell lymphomas. Burkitt lymphoma accounts for about 40% of all NHL diagnoses in the United States.

IMG_2037These general statistics are interesting but of course the most important statistic for many people is the long-term survival rate for children with NHL. In other words, most people want to know “what is the expected life span of someone with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?” Generally speaking, oncologists don’t talk about “curing” childhood cancer; instead, they utilize something called the 5-year survival rate. This key statistic refers to the percentage of children who are still alive five years after their treatment is complete. For most children with NHL, this type of cancer is unlikely to return once a child has been “cancer free” for five years (although this does not address the risk of secondary cancers stemming from the original cancer treatment).

As always with statistics, however, it is important to look at them with a degree of caution. First, and most importantly, a general statistic can never predict what will happen with one specific child. Each child’s prognosis depends heavily on their unique diagnosis. Second, by definition, the 5-year survival rate looks at children who completed treatment at least five years ago, if not longer. Fortunately, research into new and better treatment options for NHL and other types of childhood cancers is progressing more rapidly than ever before, so today’s treatment options may be more effective than those available five or more years ago.

Prognosis of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma by Type

The good news is that, in general, NHL responds well to chemotherapy; in other words, chemotherapy is usually able to kill most NHL cells fairly quickly. Moreover, as research into different types of drugs and different combinations of drugs progresses, oncologists are finding even more effective methods of targeting NHL. However, the specific prognosis of each child will depend on the type of NHL they have been diagnosed with, the stage of the cancer, how well it responds, and the general health of the child. Your child’s oncologist will be able to provide you with an answer to this question that is specific to your child.

The prognosis for the three main types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in children is broken down thusly:

  • Lymphoblastic lymphoma (LBL): Like Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), LBL grows in immature lymphocytes known as lymphoblasts. LBL responds well to intensive chemotherapy, and the 5-year survival rate for Stage I or II LBL is greater than 90%. The 5-year survival rate for Stage III or Stage IV LBL is generally greater than 80%.
  • Burkitt lymphoma (small, non-cleaved cell lymphoma): Burkitt lymphoma starts in the abdomen, and can sometimes grow in the form of a tumor; therefore, surgery in addition to chemotherapy may be required. Burkitt lymphoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers and must be treated very aggressively. As with LBL, Stages I and II can be treated very successfully, with long-term survival rates greater than 90%, while the long-term survival rate for Stages III and IV is between 80 and 90%.
  • Large cell lymphomas: Large cell lymphomas grow from mature T or B cell lymphocytes. Generally speaking, this type of NHL grows more slowly than other lymphomas and is less likely to spread to the bone marrow or brain. There are two main subtypes: anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Again, for Stages I and II, the 5-year survival rate is greater than 90%, and ranges between 80 and 90% for more advanced stages (III or IV). The long-term survival rate for ALCL, however, is between 60 and 75%.

More about Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Cancers:

Learn More About the Different Types of Childhood Cancers:

For additional information about childhood cancer or on ACCO, or to order resources for you or your child, please visit our website at www.acco.org.

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About American Childhood Cancer Organization

The American Childhood Cancer Organization was founded in 1970 by parents of children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer. As the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated to childhood cancer, ACCO is committed to shaping policy, supporting research, raising awareness, and providing free educational resources to kids with cancer, survivors, and their families. Additionally, ACCO is the sole U.S. member of Childhood Cancer International (CCI) and has helped support more than half a million families over the past 50 years. Help make childhood cancer a national health priority because kids can’t fight cancer alone®

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