Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma Types - Common & Rare Types

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Charu Shrivastava, last updated on 19 August 2023| min read
Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma Types - Common & Rare Types

Quick Summary

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common haematological malignancies worldwide. It accounts for nearly 3% of all cancer cases.
  • Some non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types are relatively common and familiar to medical practitioners. Others are rarely encountered in clinical settings.
  • These types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can present several symptoms. Furthermore, they may exhibit different responses to treatment, emphasising the complexity of the disease.

Did you know non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common haematological malignancies worldwide? It accounts for nearly 3% of all cancer cases.1 This common form of lymphoma includes various lymphatic system cancers. Some non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types are relatively common and familiar to medical practitioners. Others are rarely encountered in clinical settings.

These types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can present several symptoms. Furthermore, they may exhibit different responses to treatment, emphasising the complexity of the disease. The following blog explores the various common and rare types of this disease. Continue reading to learn more about non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma type B and T malignancies.

What is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer originating in the lymphatic system, a vital part of the body’s immune system. It involves the abnormal growth of B lymphocytes (B-cells) or T lymphocytes (T-cells). These white blood cells can accumulate and form tumours in various lymph nodes or other lymphatic tissues.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 60 specific non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types exist. These subtypes are categorised by the characteristics of the lymphoma cells.

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Common Types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

While NHL comprises numerous variations, several types are more commonly diagnosed and studied. Accurate diagnosis and proper classification are essential for determining the most suitable treatment approach and achieving favourable outcomes. 

Some of the common non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma type B cancers include:

  1. Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL): It is the most prevalent type of NHL, accounting for a significant portion of cases. According to NCBI, DLBCL accounts for 25% to 30% of all NHL cases.

    It is an aggressive lymphoma that can develop in lymph nodes or extranodal sites. Non-Hodgkin’s diffuse large cell type B lymphoma often grows rapidly and requires prompt treatment.

  1. Follicular Lymphoma: This is the second most common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, accounting for about 22% of all cases.
    It is a slow-growing form of NHL that often develops in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, or other organs. 

    Follicular lymphoma is usually not curable. However, treatment can improve a person’s quality of life and help with prolonged survival. 

T-cell lymphomas are usually less common than B-cell lymphoma. However, within T-cell lymphoma, the most common type includes:

  1. Peripheral T-cell Lymphoma, Not Otherwise Specified: These lymphomas represent a group of aggressive cancers that begin in T-cells.

    The most common is called “not otherwise specified” because it does not fit into more specific classifications.

    According to an NCBI study, the incidence of peripheral T-cell lymphoma is about 20% in India. It can involve the lymph nodes, liver, bone marrow, intestines, and skin.  

Rare Types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Certain subtypes are notably rare among the wide range of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. These rare types of NHL often pose diagnostic challenges. 

Examples of uncommon non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma type B cancers include:

  1. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL)/ Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (SLL): These conditions are essentially the same, characterised by abnormal B-cell growth. CLL mainly affects the blood, while SLL primarily involves lymph nodes.

    While CLL is the most common adult leukaemia in the United States, the disease is uncommon in India.

  1. Mantle Cell Lymphoma: This rare subtype of NHL mostly affects men aged 60 and older. NCBI states that mantle cell lymphoma comprises about 5% of all NHL cases. It grows in the mantle zone, which is the outer ring of the small lymphocytes.

    This type is usually found in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen. 

  1. Marginal Zone Lymphoma: This subtype originating in the marginal zone of lymphoid tissues accounts for 3-9% of NHL cases.8 The marginal zone is the area surrounding the mantle zone.

    This type of lymphoma can affect various sites, such as the skin, lungs, stomach, or salivary glands. It includes three main variants: extranodal, nodal, and splenic marginal zone lymphoma.

  1. Burkitt Lymphoma: It is an aggressive NHL subtype, often presenting with rapidly growing tumours.

    Burkitt lymphoma is usually found in the stomach and is more common in children than adults. It makes up about 2% of all lymphomas.

  1. Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma: This is a rare (1%-2%), slow-growing cancer that forms in the liver and spleen.

    It produces an antibody called M-protein that may cause specific signs and symptoms. 

Rare types of T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:

  1. Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma: A cancer in which the T-cells attack the skin. It accounts for about 4% of NHL cases. Examples of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma include Mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome. 

  1. Adult T-cell Lymphoma/Leukaemia: ATLL is caused by the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). It may occur in bones, skin, and blood.

    ASCO Journal says the risk of developing ATLL is about 4%-7% in HTLV-1 carriers.

  1. Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL): This fast-growing lymphoma accounts for about 2% of lymphomas. They are divided into two subtypes: primary cutaneous ALCL (only affects the skin) and systemic ALCL (affects lymph nodes and other organs). 

  1. Angioimmunoblastic T-cell Lymphoma: Constituting about 4% of all lymphomas, this lymphoma spreads quickly and often returns after treatment.

    It generally presents with enlarged lymph nodes, skin rashes, weight loss, fever, and infections. 

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can vary depending on its subtype, stage, and affected organs. Symptoms of NHL are non-specific and may be similar to those of other diseases.

While some symptoms may appear early, others may be experienced when the disease progresses.

The most common early indicator of NHL include:

  1. Swollen lymph nodes: Painless, enlarged lymph nodes, often in the neck, armpits, or groyne, is usually the first warning sign of NHL. It may also be the only sign until the disease progresses. 

Advanced Symptoms of NHL include:

  1. Cough, Chest Pain, or Shortness of Breath: When NHL affects the chest, it can cause persistent coughing, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

  2. Fatigue: Profound tiredness or weakness, unrelated to activity, is a common symptom.

  3. Abdominal Pain: Swelling, pain, or discomfort in the abdomen can indicate NHL in the abdominal area.

  4. Itching or Skin Changes: Persistent itching, rashes, or changes in skin appearance may occur due to NHL. 

  5. Early Satiety: Individuals may experience a feeling of fullness quickly after eating only a small amount of food. This happens when enlarged lymph nodes or tumours compress the stomach or other nearby organs. 

  6. Easy Bruising or Bleeding: Low platelet count might result in easy bruising, bleeding gums, or nosebleeds.

  7. Frequent Infections: Weakened immune responses can make individuals more susceptible to infections.

Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Accurate NHL diagnosis is essential for tailoring effective treatment strategies and improving outcomes. The diagnosis of NHL is a comprehensive process involving various steps:

  1. Medical History and Physical Exam: A doctor gathers information about symptoms, medical history, and risk factors. This is followed by a thorough physical examination to assess swollen lymph nodes, spleen, or liver.

  2. Imaging Studies: Tests like CT scans, PET scans, and MRIs help visualise lymph nodes, organs, and potential tumour masses. This aids in staging and determining the extent of the disease.

  3. Blood and Urine Tests: These tests are performed to rule out infections or other diseases. 

  4. Lymph Node Biopsy: The doctor removes all or part of the lymph nodes for laboratory testing. 

  5. Bone Marrow Biopsy: In some cases, a bone marrow biopsy is performed to assess the presence of lymphoma cells in the bone marrow. 

  6. Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap): The test may be performed for lymphomas involving the central nervous system. It helps analyse cerebrospinal fluid.

Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Treatment depends on the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types, stage, patient’s health, and other factors. The goal is to achieve remission, alleviate symptoms, and improve quality of life. Treatments for NHL include:

  1. Watchful Waiting: No immediate treatment is initiated in certain low-grade or indolent lymphomas. The patient is closely monitored until treatment becomes necessary.

  2. Chemotherapy: It involves the use of powerful drugs to kill or control cancer cells. Combination chemotherapy regimens are often employed. These are usually given intravenously.

  3. Targeted Therapies: These drugs specifically target certain molecules involved in lymphoma cell growth. Monoclonal antibodies and other targeted agents may be used alone or in combination.

  4. Immunotherapy: Boosting the body’s immune response to fight cancer. CAR T-cell therapy and monoclonal antibodies are examples of immunotherapies used in NHL.

  5. Radiation Therapy: High-energy beams target and destroy cancer cells. It is used when cancer is slow growing or limited to one or two spots. 

  6. Stem Cell Transplantation: The procedure involves high-dose chemotherapy and an infusion of healthy stem cells. It is done to replace damaged bone marrow.

    Providers usually perform autologous (patient’s own cells) transplants. Rarely, they may perform allogeneic (from a donor) transplants.


Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has both common and rare types. The non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types have different characteristics with varying treatment responses.

Recognising these types can help your medical team better tackle the disease through personalised treatments. If you have chronic symptoms or have worries about your health, you should see a healthcare expert for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

HexaHealth offers comprehensive support to NHL patients through symptom management and access to leading specialists. Using advanced technologies, the team at HexaHealth helps diagnose the type of NHL, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their care. To know more, schedule an appointment TODAY! 

Suggested read

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Types of Lymphoma
Hodgkin vs non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Is lymphoma curable?

Frequently Asked Questions

Common non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types include:

  1. Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)

  2. Follicular Lymphoma

  3. Peripheral T-cell Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma type B constitutes about 85% of cases, making it the most common type of NHL. It can be identified through the following:

  1. Imaging

  2. Biopsy of affected lymph nodes or tissues

  3. Specialised laboratory tests to detect the presence of abnormal B-cells

Some rare types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:

  1. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL)/ Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (SLL) 

  2. Marginal Zone Lymphoma

  3. Mantle Cell Lymphoma 

  4. Burkitt Lymphoma 

  5. Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma

  6. Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma 

  7. Adult T-cell Lymphoma/Leukaemia

  8. Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma 

  9. Angioimmunoblastic T-cell Lymphoma

Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common non-Hodgkin lymphoma type. It accounts for a significant proportion of cases (25% to 30%). DLBCL requires diverse treatment strategies based on its characteristics.

 The most commonly diagnosed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types include:

  1. Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)

  2. Follicular Lymphoma

  3. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (CLL/SLL)

The characteristics of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can vary based on its type. While diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is aggressive, follicular lymphoma is slow-growing. Furthermore, the severity of symptoms and treatment strategy may also differ based on the type. 

The characteristics of non-Hodgkin’s diffuse large cell type B lymphoma are as follows: 

  1. Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) accounts for 25% to 30% of all NHL cases. It is the most common lymphoma.

  2. The cells divide quickly, resulting in swollen lymph nodes in nodal or extranodal sites.

  3. DLBCL is derived from B-cells, a type of white blood cell that protects against infections.

  4. Though aggressive, it responds well to chemotherapy.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with each type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are: 

  1. Painless swollen lymph nodes

  2. Fatigue

  3. Unexplained weight loss

  4. Fever

  5. Night sweats

  6. Itching

  7. Skin rash

  8. Abdominal pain

  9. Chest pain

  10. Cough

  11. Shortness of breath

The treatment approach for NHL can vary based on the type and stage of the disease and patient characteristics.

  1. Common non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types often involve established regimens like chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapies. 

  2. Some rare types may require specialised treatment due to limited data. This involves novel treatments, close monitoring, and multidisciplinary care. 

 Certain factors may increase the risk of common non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types. These include:

  1. Advanced age (60 years or older)

  2. A weakened immune system (e.g., HIV infection, organ transplantation, certain autoimmune diseases)

  3. Exposure to certain chemicals or pesticides

  4. Prior radiation or chemotherapy treatment

  5. Certain autoimmune diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren disease, etc.)

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survival rates can differ depending on the disease stage, age, overall health, and responsiveness to treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, NHL’s 5-year survival rate is 74%. The survival rate of the two most common non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types is as follows:

  1. Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma: 65%

  2. Follicular Lymphoma: 90%

The exact root cause of most rare Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types is unknown. However, some genetic or inherited variables have been identified in select cases. People with non-Hodgkin’s disease running in the immediate family are at a higher risk of getting this disease.

The prognosis of different NHL forms could differ significantly, regardless of whether they are common or rare. Each kind of NHL has distinct characteristics, symptoms, and treatment responses that can influence prognosis.

 The prevalence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types varies. The following is the prevalence of some types of NHL:

  1. Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma: The most common type of NHL (25% to 30% of all NHL cases)

  2. Follicular Lymphoma: The second most common NHL (22% of all cases)

  3. Marginal Zone Lymphoma: A rare type (3-9% of cases)

  4. Burkitt Lymphoma: A rare type (2% of all cases)

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment advancements include targeted therapies like monoclonal antibodies and CAR T-cell therapy. These innovative approaches show promise in improving outcomes for specific subtypes. They also enhance personalised treatment strategies.

NHL staging systems, such as the Ann Arbor staging system, broadly apply to common and uncommon NHL kinds. These approaches categorise NHL based on its severity, which includes the involvement of lymph nodes, organs, and other tissues.

Yes, common Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types like Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma often show genetic alterations. These alterations may include rearrangements of the BCL2 or MYC genes. Protein expressions, such as CD10, BCL2, and MUM1, can help categorise DLBCL into different subtypes.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is divided into more than 60 variants. These types can differ in their pathology based on the following characteristics of lymphoma cells:

  1. Histological

  2. Immunophenotypic

  3. Genetic

The following are some of the most recommended screening and diagnostic tests for different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma:

  1. Imaging Studies

  2. Blood and urine tests

  3. Lymph node biopsy

  4. Bone marrow biopsy

  5. Lumbar puncture

  6. Immunophenotyping 

Common non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma types may have links to certain environmental factors, such as:

  1. Exposure to pesticides and solvents

  2. Infections like the Epstein-Barr virus

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma generally affects people aged 60 or above. However, it can also occur among children, teens, and young adults. Different subtypes may sometimes show different age distributions.


All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.

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  2. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment [Internet]. Cleveland
  3. Padala SA, Kallam A. Cancer, Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing;
  4. NHL Subtypes | Leukemia and Lymphoma Society [Internet].
  5. Nemani S, Anu Korula, Agrawal B, M. Kavitha, Marie Therese Manipadam, Elanthenral Sigamani, et al. Peripheral T cell lymphoma: Clinico-pathological characteristics & outcome from a tertiary care centre in south India. Indian Journal of Medical Research [Internet]. 2018 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Aug 19];147(link
  6. Tejaswi V, Lad DP, Jindal N, Prakash G, Malhotra P, Khadwal A, et al. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Real-World Data From India. JCO Global Oncology. 2020 Nov;(6):866–
  7. Lynch DT, Acharya U. Cancer, Mantle Cell Lymphoma [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing;
  8. Görkem Türkkan, Alkan A, Semra Paydas, Ozgur Tanriverdi, Karakas Y, Nuri Karadurmus, et al. Demographical and Clinical Features of Marginal Zone Lymphomas: A Retrospective Study of Turkish Oncology Group (TOG). Indian Journal of Hematology and Blood Transfusion [Internet]. 2020 Feb 22 [cited 2023 Aulink
  9. Malpica L, Enriquez D, Castro D, Peña C, Idrobo H, Fiad L, et al. Real-World Data on Adult T-Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma in Latin America: A Study From the Grupo de Estudio Latinoamericano de Linfoproliferativos. JCO global oncology. 2021 Dec 1;(7):1151–
  10. Types of T-cell Lymphoma | T-Cell Lymphoma Classification [Internet].
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Updated on : 19 August 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

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Charu Shrivastava

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