What is follicular lymphoma? — Follicular lymphoma is one type of lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is made up of organs all over the body that make and store cells that fight infection (figure 1). These infection-fighting cells are also called "white blood cells."
When people have follicular lymphoma, their white blood cells become abnormal and grow out of control. These cells can travel to different parts of the body. Often, the abnormal cells collect in bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes. This causes the lymph nodes to swell.
Follicular lymphoma usually grows slowly, but it can change to a type of lymphoma that grows quickly.
What are the symptoms of follicular lymphoma? — Most people with follicular lymphoma first notice one or more swollen lymph nodes. These swollen nodes are often in the neck, groin, or belly. People can feel them under the skin, but they are usually not painful.
Other than having swollen lymph nodes, some people do not have any other symptoms for years. But other people can have symptoms, including:
Night sweats that soak their clothes
Blockages in the digestive tract or urinary tract
Feeling very tired and weak
Is there a test for follicular lymphoma? — Yes. Your doctor or nurse will talk with you and do an exam. He or she will also do:
Lymph node biopsy – A doctor will remove one of the swollen lymph nodes. Then another doctor will look at the cells under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.
What is lymphoma staging? — Lymphoma staging is a way in which doctors find out how far the lymphoma has spread in the lymphatic system or in the rest of the body.
To find out how far your follicular lymphoma has spread, your doctor will do an exam, blood tests, and an imaging test, such as a CT or PET scan. Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
Your doctor might also do a bone marrow biopsy. For this test, a doctor will take a small sample of bone marrow (the tissue in the center of your bones). Another doctor will look at the sample under a microscope to see if it has cancer.
How is follicular lymphoma treated? — Often, follicular lymphoma is not treated right away. Your doctor might not treat your follicular lymphoma right away if it is not causing any symptoms. But he or she will watch your cancer closely by doing exams and blood tests until treatment is needed.
Doctors usually treat follicular lymphoma when it causes symptoms. Treatments can help reduce symptoms, but they do not usually cure the cancer. The right treatment for you will depend on:
Where the follicular lymphoma is in your body
Your age and other medical conditions
People with follicular lymphoma can be treated with:
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
Antibodies – Antibodies are proteins in your blood. Your immune system makes them to help your body fight infections. But there are other types of antibodies that are created in a lab and used as medicine. They kill cancer cells by targeting specific parts of the cells.
Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.
Bone marrow transplant (also called "stem cell transplant") – This treatment replaces cells in the bone marrow that are killed by chemotherapy or radiation. Usually, only people whose follicular lymphoma comes back after treatment get a bone marrow transplant.
What else should I do? — It's important to follow all your doctor's instructions about visits and tests. It's also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.
Getting treated for follicular lymphoma involves making many choices, such as what treatment to have and when.
Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask:
What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?
What are the downsides to this treatment?
Are there other options besides this treatment?
What will happen if I do not have this treatment?
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15857 Version 10.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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