According to the American Cancer Society, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one of the most common cancers in the United States, is a cancer that originates in a specific type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes. Lymphocytes work to eliminate foreign invaders and protect the body from infection. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma most commonly begins in the lymph nodes, glands located in the neck, armpit and groin, which contain a concentrated amount of lymphocytes. In addition to lymph nodes, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can affect other organs, referred to as extranodal organs in the diagnosis.
The spleen, an organ about the size of a fist, serves two main functions: it filters old red blood cells from the blood, and it captures foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. The spleen contains red pulp filled with blood to remove old and damaged red blood cells from circulation. It also contains white pulp that contains lymph tissue full of B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. The aggregate of lymphocytes increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affecting the spleen.
Bones contain a spongy tissue known as bone marrow. The bone marrow contains immature cells, known as stem cells that develop into the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Diseases, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, can affect the bone marrow interfering with its ability to produce new cells, as described by MedLine Plus.
The thymus, a small organ located in the space between the chest and the lungs, consists of two lobes containing three distinct layers. The medulla, the innermost layer, is surrounded by the cortex with a thin covering, known as the capsule, covering the outside of the thymus. T lymphocytes travel from the bone marrow to the thymus to mature, and then continue on to the lymph nodes where they work to provide immunity. The concentration of T lymphocytes in the thymus increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affecting it.
The gastrointestinal tract, also called the gut, contains lymphoid tissue in which non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can develop. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) can aggregate in the tonsils, adenoids, appendix, large intestine, esophagus and stomach. Peyer’s patches, large aggregates of lymphoid tissue, can be found in the small intestine. Peyer’s patches facilitate the generation of immune responses within the gut, producing B cell precursors and memory cells important for immunity, according to MicrobiologyBytes.com.