Emergency icon Important Updates
Your body’s lymphatic system plays an important role in fighting off infections. But what happens when it stops being helpful — and turns harmful instead?

This can happen if your body makes too many abnormal white blood cells called lymphocytes. If it does, it means you may have a blood cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And it can affect your health in serious ways.

That’s why it’s important to quickly get treatment from experienced healthcare providers. Our experts work with you to confirm your diagnosis and build a treatment plan to give you the best possible results.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Care?

personalized care icon

Personalized care:

No two cancer treatment plans are the same. Your care is specific to your unique needs and goals. That’s why your Cleveland Clinic team meets regularly to talk about your specific treatment plan, progress and next steps. We make sure you stay at the center of your care every step of the way. Meet our team.

comprehensive treatment icon

Comprehensive treatment:

Our expert providers explore all treatment options, including the latest lymphoma clinical trials. We make sure your care plan meets your unique needs, so you have the greatest chance of remission.

comfort and convenience icon

Comfort and convenience:

If you need to stay in the hospital for a complex procedure, like a bone marrow transplant, we want you to be as comfortable as possible. We do our best to make your room feel like your home away from home. We offer private rooms with pullout beds for loved ones, Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs with DVD players — even laundry and kitchen areas.

Innovation and Research Icon

Innovation and research:

We always look for new ways to treat lymphoma by testing the latest drugs and researching new procedures and therapies, like chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. You may also qualify for one of our clinical trials that lets you try new treatments or combinations of treatments before they’re widely available.

Virtual Consultation icon

Virtual visits:

If you don’t feel well, the thought of getting dressed and driving to see your provider can seem like a lot. A virtual visit might be the answer. Your provider can let you know if this is an option. You’ll get the same great care but from the comfort and convenience of home. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, computer or tablet.

national recognition icon

National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We’re recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma at Cleveland Clinic

When your body makes too many white blood cells, you can get non-Hodgkin lymphoma. We don’t know all the reasons why this can happen, but we do know that genetic mutations (changes) in your white blood cells play a role.

You aren’t born with these changes. They develop during your lifetime. Problems with your immune system, particularly if it’s weakened or not working the way it should, can also cause you to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This means you have a compromised immune system. It can result from treatment for an organ transplant or from other health conditions.

Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

There are more than 70 different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma affecting B cells (B lymphocytes) or T cells (T lymphocytes). The type you have will guide us as we confirm a diagnosis and plan your treatment.

B-cell lymphoma makes up about 85% of all non-Hodgkin lymphoma, while T-cell lymphoma is rarer. There are many kinds of each. The most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the fast-growing (aggressive) diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Some of the other aggressive ones include:

Slow-growing (indolent) non-Hodgkin lymphomas include:

All types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas can cause the same symptoms. You may have swollen lymph nodes, belly (abdominal) pain and swelling, chest pain, fatigue, fevers and an ongoing cough — among other things. All are signs to make an appointment to get things checked out.

What to expect at your first visit

Knowing you may have a blood cell cancer like non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be unsettling. Your providers understand this. They’re here to help you know what to expect as you move through treatment. They’ll answer your questions and listen to your concerns.

At your first appointment, your providers will ask you to share what’s been going on. They’ll want to know what kind of symptoms you have, how long you’ve had them and if you’ve already had any testing. They’ll ask you questions about your general health and if you or anyone in your family has had cancer.

During this visit, you’ll also have a physical exam. And your provider will order some tests to help rule out other conditions and help stage the cancer.

Testing for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

You’ll have a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry study to see what’s going on with your blood cells and other things in your bloodstream. We’ll also check your lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels. High amounts of LDH can be a sign of lymphoma and tissue damage. We may also do a test called immunophenotyping. This test can help us find out what kind of lymphoma you have.

Imaging tests let us look inside your body for any changes. You may have:

If we find changes in your lymph nodes, we may do a lymph node biopsy to look for cells linked to lymphoma.

Second opinions for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Hearing you may have a blood cell cancer like non-Hodgkin lymphoma can leave you wondering about your future. You want to be sure you get the best possible care. A second opinion helps you find experienced providers you trust.

We work to schedule your second opinion appointment as quickly as possible. Our non-Hodgkin lymphoma team wants to help you understand what to expect. They’ll go over test results and talk with you about treatment options. We want you to feel in control of your care and confident about taking the next step.

Meet Our Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Team

No two cancer diagnoses are the same. That means your treatments and your providers should be personalized for your specific needs. When you come to Cleveland Clinic, you’ll have a handpicked team of experts from different specialties, like:

This team works together to build your treatment plan. And during treatment, they meet regularly to talk about your progress and decide on the next steps. You get the benefit of having the combined experience and input of all the providers on your care team.


We work as one team — providing expert care at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be able to see a provider close to home or you may need to come to our main campus for more complex care.

Treating Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma at Cleveland Clinic

There are different ways to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Your care team will use your test results and the kind of lymphoma you have to build the best treatment plan for your needs. The goal of treatment is to have you go into remission. This means you no longer have symptoms — and tests show no signs of symptoms.

Watchful waiting

Slow-growing (indolent) non-Hodgkin lymphoma may not always need immediate treatment. Your providers may instead keep a close eye on you and your symptoms. This is known as watchful waiting or active surveillance. If you begin showing active symptoms, they can start treatment right away.

Systemic therapies

These therapies kill cancer cells or keep them from dividing and multiplying. You may have:

Radiation therapy 

We may recommend radiation therapy as part of your treatment plan. It could be the main treatment for slow-growing or early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And it may be combined with systemic treatments for fast-growing or large tumors. It can also help manage pain.

Stem cell transplantation

This treatment uses high doses of chemotherapy to treat your lymphoma by replacing stem cells (immature blood cells) with ones from your own body (autologous stem cell transplant). Or you may have an allogeneic stem cell transplant. This replaces your damaged stem cells with ones from a donor. To prepare for either kind of transplant, you may first have chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Living with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

There’s a chance treatment will put your non-Hodgkin lymphoma into remission. Most people with aggressive lymphoma have good results.  For slow-growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the remission may last for many years.

But sometimes, non-Hodgkin lymphoma comes back (recurs). That’s why it’s important to keep up with follow-up care after cancer treatment. This includes having regular check-ups with your care team. You’ll also get ongoing testing to look for any new signs of cancer. Sometimes, you may need to have treatment on and off. Or maybe continuous treatment for symptoms that don’t go into remission.

Having a chronic condition like this (and worrying about it coming back) can be stressful. Your providers can help you find a counselor to talk with. And they can connect you with support groups for people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They can also help you get palliative care to help relieve your symptoms.

Taking the Next Step

Having a potentially lifelong blood cancer like non-Hodgkin lymphoma can make you feel like your world has turned upside down. Your thoughts may quickly move to treatment and your future. And finding the best providers to guide you through it all. Cleveland Clinic’s lymphoma team is here to help. We offer the personalized care for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, focusing on all aspects of your well-being, every step of the way.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.

Manage your Cleveland Clinic account. Find billing information and financial assistance, plus FAQs.

Billing & Insurance

Manage your Cleveland Clinic account. Find billing information and financial assistance, plus FAQs.

Securely access your personal health information at any time, day or night.


Securely access your personal health information at any time, day or night.

Woman with a shaved head due to chemotherapy treatment is hopeful following remission.


Learning you have cancer can be stressful, shocking and challenging. From the moment you get the news, you're a survivor. As you face the challenges that go along with cancer treatment and recovery — physical and emotional — we’ll be right there with you.

At Cleveland Clinic, survivorship care is one part of your journey. We offer a wide range of services, resources, clinics and support groups to help with any physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs you might have related to your cancer diagnosis. Lending a helping hand along the way, we want you to not only survive, but thrive on this journey and beyond.

Health Library
Back to Top