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What to Know About B-Cell Lymphomas

A B-cell lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that begins in the B cells of the lymphatic system. This is the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is much more common than T-cell lymphoma. B cells or B lymphocytes are white blood cells that make antibodies and are an important part of the immune system. B cells come primarily from bone marrow. By looking at the proteins on the surface of cells, a pathologist can tell which type you have. This information helps guide your treatment plan.

Here are the more common types of B-cell lymphomas:

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). DLBCL makes up almost one third of all lymphomas. It occurs mostly in older people (most people are in their mid-60s). This is a fast-growing type of lymphoma. Its cells appear large when viewed under a microscope. With treatment, about half of those who develop it can be cured. The prognosis is best in those whose lymphoma is confined to one part of the body.

  • Follicular (nodular) lymphoma. This type makes up almost 25 percent of all lymphomas. This is a slow-growing type. Most of the time, it occurs in many lymph nodes throughout the body as well as in the bone marrow. These lymphomas tend to grow slowly and often respond well to treatment, but they are hard to cure. 

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). These related diseases account for about 5 to 10 percent of all lymphomas. In CLL, the lymphoma occurs mostly in the blood and bone marrow. In SLL, it is mainly in the lymph nodes. Both are slow-growing diseases. Neither is considered curable with standard types of treatment; however, most patients can live with this type of lymphoma more than 10 years.

  • Extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphomas, specifically mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphomas. Marginal zone lymphomas make up about 5 to 10 percent of lymphomas. MALT lymphoma is a type of marginal zone lymphoma thought to be connected to an infection by Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Most MALT lymphomas begin in the stomach. It can also be found confined to sites such as the lungs, skin, thyroid or salivary glands, and tissues surrounding the eye.

  • Mantle cell lymphoma. This type accounts for about 5 percent of lymphoma cases. Men are affected more by mantle cell lymphoma. It is usually widespread when diagnosed, involving lymph nodes, bone marrow, and often the spleen. This lymphoma does not grow very quickly, but it is often hard to treat. 

  • Primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma. This type accounts for about 2 percent of all lymphomas. It is actually a subtype of DLBCL. Women more commonly have this disease. Most are in their 30s. This lymphoma starts in the area around the heart and behind the chest bone, called the mediastinum. Although it is a fast-growing lymphoma, it is treatable.

  • Burkitt lymphoma. This type makes up about 1 to 2 percent of all lymphomas. It is similar to Burkitt-like lymphoma with which it is classified. Close to 90 percent of people with this disease are boys or men, and the average age is about 30. This lymphoma grows very quickly, but more than half of the people are cured by aggressive chemotherapy.

  • Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia). This is a rare type of lymphoma. It is found mainly in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen. People with this lymphoma usually live longer than five  years, although their disease is usually not curable.

  • Hairy cell leukemia. Despite its name, this is often considered to be a type of lymphoma. Only about 700 people in the United States are diagnosed with this type every year. Named for the hairlike appearance of its cells, this lymphoma is typically found in the bone marrow, spleen, and blood. It tends to be slow growing and is often curable.

  • Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. This type usually involves the brain. It may also be found in the spinal cord and the tissues around it, as well as in the eye. Over time, it becomes widespread in the central nervous system. This type of lymphoma is more common in people with immune system problems, such as AIDS.


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