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Lymphoma Survival Rate

Lymphoma Survival Rate

The lymphoma survival rate may vary greatly depending on the age, the time of diagnosis and the health of the person. However, one of the most important regulating factors is the type of lymphoma the person is diagnosed with. Read on to know more...
Parul Solanki
Affecting the cells of the immune and lymphatic system of the human body, lymphoma is a cancer that is present as a solid tumor in the lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is responsible for transmitting the lymph fluid, which contains the white blood cells (lymphocytes), to various parts of the body.

There are basically two types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. The production of protein and its movement throughout the body is regulated by B cells. These cells also attach themselves to infectious organisms and abnormal cells. This helps in alerting the immune system that the pathogen needs to be destroyed. On the other hand, the T cells are responsible for killing the pathogens. They thus help in regulating the immune system. In case a person suffers from lymphoma, lymphocytes undergo malignant transformation and develop tumors. These can collect in the lymph nodes, overwhelming nearby tissues, and depriving them of oxygen and essential nutrients.

In the advanced stages, the tumors can travel to other tissues and parts of the body. This process is known as metastasis. The lymphomas essentially falls into any of the two major categories: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas or NHLs. Here is a look at the two basic types with respect to survival rate of patients.

Understanding Survival Rates and Factors that Affect the Prognosis
Cancer survival rate is a tool used by doctors to discuss the person's prognosis. It provides data regarding the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer, for a specific amount of time. For statistical purposes an overall five-year survival rate is taken for cancer patients. This rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. This does not mean that the people diagnosed with the cancer will live for only five years. There are people who live much longer, and many are cured as well.

There are many factors that affect the outcome. Factors like improvement in treatment, particularly radiotherapy technology and effective combination of anti-cancer drugs are also taken into consideration. According to the International Prognostic Index (IPI), which was developed to provide the outlook for fast growing lymphomas, particularly aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there are five factors that affect the prognosis of lymphomas. These include:
  • The age of the patient (Age greater or less than 60 years)
  • Stage of the lymphoma (For stage III or IV disease, the prognosis is poor)
  • Location of the lymphoma (Whether it is in organs or outside the lymph system)
  • Performance status (Measures how well a person can complete normal daily activities)
  • The level of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the blood (This level goes up with the amount of lymphoma in the body.)
Each poor prognostic point like age above 60 years, is assigned one point. Based on the prognostic points the risk factor is determined. For 0 or 1 poor prognostic factors, the risk factor was low, while 4 or 5 poor prognostic factors led to the risk factor being classified as high. Due to the availability of newer drug called rituximab (Rituxan), the recent revised IPI uses the same factors but divides patients into only 3 risk groups:
  • Very good (There are no poor prognostic factors)
  • Good (There are 1 or 2 poor prognostic factors)
  • Poor (There are 3 or more poor prognostic factors) 
Survival Rate for Hodgkin's Lymphoma
The rarer of the two types of lymph node cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma is named after the researcher Thomas Hodgkin who first diagnosed this cancer. It is characterized by a distinctive altered cancerous cell known as a Reed-Sternberg cell. Although observed in any age group, Hodgkin's lymphoma is usually diagnosed in adolescent and young adults. Older people over the age of 50 years are also be susceptible to the disease. In United States an estimated 7800 people are diagnosed with this lymphoma. Hodgkin's disease is also believed to affect men more than women. Out of the 74,490 new cases diagnosed in 2009, 40,630 persons were males and 33,860 were females. Although quite aggressive, this cancer is treatable and therefore, has a high survival rate.
  • The five-year survival rate has increased dramatically from 40% in the 1960s, to more than 84% from 1999 to 2005. This is because Hodgkin's lymphoma was the first cancerous disease to be treated using radiation therapy and combination chemotherapy.
  • The relative survival rate has shown a decline, from 83% at five years and 78% at ten years. This is because chemotherapy and radiation which are used for curing the lymphoma can cause secondary malignancies like breast cancer, acute leukemia, and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • According to statistics provided by Cancer Research UK, the five-year relative survival rates for Hodgkin lymphoma are the third highest of the 21 most common cancers.
  • Due to effective response to treatment and early diagnosis, the relative survival for Hodgkin lymphoma is higher in younger men and women. The ten-year relative survival rates generally exceeded 80% for persons in the age group of 15 - 44 years at diagnosis. This rate was substantially lower in older age groups. When the person is diagnosed at age 75 or older, relative survival was poor, 38% at five years and 21% at 10 years.
  • The sex of the patient also impacts the survival rate. The five-year relative survival rate in young adults was 87% for males and 93% for females. The difference was less in middle-aged patients, with five-year rates being 74% for males and 77% for females. In older patients, the difference between survival rates of male and female patients is almost negligible.
  • The stage at which the cancer is diagnosed also impacts the survival rate. A person diagnosed at stage IV has a worse outcome as compared to cancers diagnosed in earlier stages. The presence of B-symptoms also has a significant impact on the survival rates. B-symptoms are a group of symptoms present in lymphoma patients. The symptoms include, fever (i.e., temperature more than 100.4°F) for 3 consecutive days, weight loss exceeding 10% of body weight in 6 months, and drenching night sweats. Across the ten-year follow-up period, patients with B-symptoms showed poorer survival as compared to patients with similarly staged disease but without B-symptoms. 
Survival Rate for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
This type refers to any strain of lymphoma which does NOT have the distinctive Reed-Sternberg cell. There are round 30 distinct types of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Among these 16 different cancer strains are usually categorized as high grade or aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, while the rest are indolent (slow-growing) lymphomas. A common slow-growing lymphoma is follicular lymphoma. Among the non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, about 85 - 90% are B cell subtypes, and 10 - 15% are T cell subtypes.
  • It is the seventh most common type of cancer. An estimated 69,740 (37,600 men and 32,140 women) Americans will be diagnosed with the disease.
  • Almost 90% of the new cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas that are detected are adults. The average age of the diagnosed patient is around 60 years.
  • The overall 5-year relative survival rate for patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is 63%, and the 10-year relative survival rate is 51%.
  • The relative survival rate by race and sex includes: 68.5% for white men; 57.9% for black men; 70.8% for white women; 66.6% for black women.
  • Among the indolent lymphomas, the most common one is follicular lymphoma. Although it is curable in the early stages, the absence of symptoms can make it difficult to predict and treat the disease. The survival rate for follicular lymph node cancer is 7 - 10 years; recent advances in medical technology give a survival rate of 91% the first four years of diagnosis.
  • The high-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is considerably easier to treat than low-grade non-Hodgkin's disease. An average 60% of people with high-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are cured. The most common form is the Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma which can be cured using chemotherapy. 
Note.― Data taken from the statistics provided by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program by the National Cancer Institute.

Remember that these are some general statistics of the lymphoma survival rates. The rate may vary greatly based on the health of the individual, the type, and the stage of diagnosis of the cancer. Based on the exact type of lymphoma, and the stage of the disease at diagnosis, treatment like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and monoclonal antibodies may be provided. Although the diagnosis of aggressive lymphomas can turn your life upside down, it is best not to lose hope. With an accurate diagnosis at early stage, treatment and recovery from lymphoma is possible.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.