AIDS InfoNet www.aidsinfonet.org
Fact Sheet Number 512
WHAT IS LYMPHOMA?
Lymphoma is a cancer of white blood
cells called B-lymphocytes, or B-cells.
They multiply rapidly and form tumors.
Lymphoma of the brain or spinal cord is
called central nervous system (CNS)
AIDS-related lymphoma is sometimes
called Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).
In 1985, the Centers for Disease Control
added NHL to the list of diseases that
define AIDS. Hodgkin’s Disease, another
type of lymphoma, is rare in people with
The longer you live with a suppressed
immune system, the higher the risk of
NHL. It can occur even with a high CD4
count. It can be serious and often fatal,
sometimes within a year.
The use of combination antiretroviral
therapy (ART) cut the rates of most
opportunistic infections by about 80%. At
first, this did not appear to be true for
NHL. However, newer studies show a
decrease of about 50% in NHL rates,
especially CNS lymphoma. NHL still
accounts for about 20% of the deaths of
people with HIV. Approximately 10% of
people with HIV may eventually develop
HOW IS NHL DIAGNOSED?
NHL tumors can occur in the bone,
abdomen, liver, brain or other parts of the
body. The first signs of NHL are swollen
lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, and
weight loss of more than 10%. These
symptoms occur with several AIDS-
related illnesses. If health care providers
cannot find another cause for these
symptoms, they will test for NHL.
NHL is usually diagnosed using imaging
techniques or biopsies. The imaging
techniques include various scans (CAT,
PET, gallium, and thallium). A biopsy is
an examination of cells from a suspected
tumor. The cells are collected by a thin
needle, or they are cut out surgically.
WHAT CAUSES NHL?
NHL is caused by long-term stimulation of
immune system. When B-cells
multiply quickly for many years, more
mutations occur. Some of these mutations
About 4% of