Low grade lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that grow slowly and are often asymptomatic compared with other types of NHL. However, they may still require ongoing monitoring and treatment.

There are two main categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin and NHL. Among NHL, doctors group the subtypes into aggressive NHL vs. low grade NHL.

Low grade lymphomas are a type of NHL cancer that starts in the cells of the lymphatic system.

Low grade lymphomas involve slow-growing cancer cells and have a slower progression rate than high-grade lymphomas.

This article closely examines low grade lymphomas, including the different types and available treatments.

A doctor talking to a patient-1.Share on Pinterest
PER Images/Stocksy

Low grade lymphoma is a type of NHL cancer that starts in the cells of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of organs, tissues, and vessels that help fight infections and other diseases.

Low grade lymphomas are slower growing than other types of lymphoma and have fewer symptoms. Low grade lymphomas often have a higher chance of long-term remission than other types of NHL.

However, they can still be challenging to treat and may require ongoing monitoring and treatment.

Learn more about lymphoma.

The different types of low grade NHL include:

Follicular lymphoma

This type of B-cell NHL starts in the follicles of the lymphatic tissue and is the second most common form of NHL, making up almost 30% of all lymphomas. It typically affects older adults and can grow slowly or remain dormant for a long time without causing symptoms.

Learn more about follicular lymphoma.

Marginal zone lymphoma

This type of NHL affects the marginal zone of the lymph node, a part of the immune system that helps fight infections.

It is more common in older adults, with the average age of diagnosis being 60 years.

Mantle cell lymphoma

This type of B-cell NHL starts in the mantle zone of the lymphatic tissue, which helps produce B cells. It is a low to intermediate-grade NHL and tends to affect older adults, with a median diagnosis age of 68 years.

Learn more about mantle cell lymphoma.

Small lymphocytic lymphoma

This is a type of B-cell NHL that affects mature B cells. It is more common in older adults and often causes no symptoms in its early stages except for potentially enlarged lymph nodes. However, it can progress over time and cause blood and bone marrow issues.

Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma

This type of NHL affects plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies. It can cause symptoms such as an enlarged spleen, anemia, and increased risk of infections.

Learn more about lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.

Skin lymphoma

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a type of T-cell NHL that affects the skin and can cause red or discolored, scaly patches or plaques, itching, and thickening of the skin. It is a slow-growing lymphoma that often requires long-term treatment.

In some cases, a low grade lymphoma can transform into a more aggressive type of lymphoma, such as an intermediate-grade or high-grade lymphoma. This transformation can occur due to genetic mutations in the cancer cells that cause them to grow and divide more rapidly, leading to a more aggressive form of the disease.

Additionally, the growth and behavior of the cancer cells can change over time, leading to a change in the grade of the lymphoma. This is why ongoing monitoring and treatment are essential for people with low grade lymphoma, even if they are in remission. Close monitoring can help detect any changes in the cancer’s progression and ensure appropriate management.

The grade of lymphoma can also affect a person’s outlook and treatment options.

When planning treatment for NHL, doctors consider several factors, including:

  • Type and subtype of NHL: The specific type and subtype of NHL can affect a person’s outlook and treatment options, so it is essential to receive an accurate diagnosis.
  • Stage of NHL: The stage of the disease, which refers to the extent to which cancer has spread, can affect an individual’s treatment options and outlook.
  • Age and overall health: This can affect a person’s available treatment options and ability to tolerate certain treatments.

The main treatments for NHL include:

  • Watchful waiting: This involves monitoring the disease without active treatment. Doctors are more likely to suggest this in cases of low grade NHLs that are not causing symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment involves intravenous or oral medications to destroy cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment involves high-energy beams of radiation that kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Immunotherapy: Medications such as checkpoint inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies enhance the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.
  • Stem cell transplant: This procedure involves collecting a person’s stem cells, treating them with high dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and returning the stem cells to the body to rebuild the immune system.
  • Surgery: Doctors may remove tumors or affected lymph nodes surgically.

Treatment plans may also adjust over time based on the person’s response to therapy and any changes in the disease.

There are many different types of lymphoma, including Hodgkin and NHL. NHL can include aggressive and low grade types.

While many different treatment options are available, it may depend on various factors, including the type of low grade lymphoma.

Additionally, what starts as a low grade lymphoma may develop into a higher-grade lymphoma. Therefore, it is important to monitor the progression of the disease.