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What is Lymphoma of the Head and Neck?

Lymphoma within the head and neck is cancer that develops in the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are commonly found within the main part of the body's "drainage" system called lymph nodes, as well as in other kinds of body tissue. There are 600 lymph nodes in the body. Approximately 300 nodes are in the head and neck. Lymphoma is the second most common malignancy occurring in the head and neck area.

Lymphoma is classified as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. While lymphoma primarily affects lymph nodes, it can also occur in non-lymph node tissue, this is known as extranodal lymphoma.  Extranodal Hodgkin lymphoma is rare. A larger number—about 25 percent—of non-Hodgkin lymphomas are extranodal. Approximately 33 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas are found within the head and neck. Extranodal lymphoma can be found in various tissues such as tonsils, parotid gland, thyroid gland, tongue, paranasal sinuses, and nasal cavity.

Both types of Lymphoma Both types have similar symptoms and for the most part will have a similar treatment plan, but vary in the ways that they respond to treatment.

Symptoms of Lymphoma Within the Head and Neck

The most common symptom of lymphoma in the head and neck is the development of painless and enlarged lymph nodes along the side of the neck. Other symptoms can include nausea and headaches. B-cell lymphoma is associated with weight loss, night sweats, and fevers. Signs of non-lymphatic cancers of the head and neck can have more severe symptoms, including:

  • Bleeding from the gums or the nose
  • Swelling of the eyes
  • Blocked nasal passages
  • Numbness or paralysis in the face