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Now for a look at non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a diagnosis that could increase

November 16, 2009 |  8:00 pm

Paulallen Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has reportedly begun treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the body's lymphatic system. This is not his first battle with cancer. Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease -- a different type of lymphoma -- in the early '80s.  More on that later ...

Here's the Reuters story on the diagnosis.

The name non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can refer to one of dozens of types of cancers, depending on the type of white blood cell associated with it. The cancers can be slow-growing or fast-growing, but they usually start with a swelling of a lymph node in the neck, armpits or groin. Here's more symptoms information from the Oncology Channel, which notes that most swellings are caused by infection, not cancer. (Again, most swellings are not caused by cancer.)

The five-year survival rate for the disease has improved dramatically over the years, but it's far from guaranteed. It hit 69% in 2005, says the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

As for how the disease develops, there's this from the Lymphoma Research Foundation: "NHL can start in the lymph nodes, in a specialized lymphatic organ such as the spleen, or in lymph tissue found in organs such as the stomach or intestines.  Since lymphocytes (white blood cells) can circulate to all parts of the body through the lymphatic vessels and bloodstream, abnormal lymphocytes can reach any part of the body. Thus, NHL can start in or spread to any part of the body. While some NHLs are localized to one area, most are present in other parts of the body by the time the diagnosis is confirmed."

Each year in the United States, there are 65,980 new cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Of those, 19,500 prove fatal, says the National Cancer Institute.

Most cases occur in people 60 or older. Men are generally more likely than women to develop the disease; whites are more at risk than African Americans and Asians.

For more on non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the American Cancer Society offers this overview. To skip to the risk factors, at least as far as they can be clarified at this point, click here.

Want more information? The National Cancer Institute offers this booklet: What You Need to Know About Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

And the Lymphoma Research Foundation offers this: Understanding Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: A Guide for Patients.

Because the risk grows with age, incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is expected to grow, says

Here are more stats on incidence and mortality.

As for Hodgkin's disease, here's a quick comparison with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from the Oncology Channel.

Of note: Incidence of the former is on the wane; incidence of the latter is on the rise.

Allen, of course, now has experience with both.

— Tami Dennis

Photo: Paul Allen in 2006. Credit: Getty Images