What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that occurs when abnormal white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the lymphatic system grow in an uncontrolled way. 

The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system. It is made up of: 

  • lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell (there are 2 types of lymphocytes, T-cells and B-cells)  
  • lymph fluid – which carries lymphocytes and other immune system cells 
  • lymph vessels – thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body[1] 
  • lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) – type of lymph tissue that filter lymph fluid before it enters the bloodstream[2] 
  • other lymph tissue – this occurs in many parts of the body, including the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow and digestive tract.  

Lymphoma can start in any part of the body that has lymph tissue. It often starts in lymph nodes in the chest or neck, or under the arms. From there, it spreads to other lymph nodes. It can sometimes spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver and bone marrow. 

Lymphoma is among the 10 most common cancers in men and women in Australia.