What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma? What to know after Jane Fonda shared her cancer is in remission

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Jane Fonda shared this week that her cancer is now in remission, after she started chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma earlier this year.

“I am feeling so blessed, so fortunate. I thank all of you who prayed and sent good thoughts my way. I am confident that it played a role in the good news,” the Oscar-winning actress wrote in a blog post published Thursday. She added that she was told by her oncologist that she can discontinue chemotherapy.

Fonda, 84, revealed in September that she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. At the time, she called herself "lucky" because she had “health insurance and access to the best doctors and treatments.”

“I realize, and it’s painful, that I am privileged in this. Almost every family in America has had to deal with cancer at one time or another and far too many don’t have access to the quality health care I am receiving and this is not right,” she shared in a post on Instagram.

But what is non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Can it be treated? Here’s what you need to know.

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What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Is it curable?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a kind of cancer that starts in a person's lymphatic system, “part of the body's germ-fighting immune system,” according to the Mayo Clinic. A person’s white blood cells, called lymphocytes, can form tumors throughout their body.

There are over 70 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the Cleveland Clinic. People with non-Hodgkin lymphomas can go into remission, meaning they do not have any symptoms, and tests show they do not demonstrate signs of the cancer.

Experts have found that many aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas come back during the first two years after a person has completed treatment, or they do not ever come back.

Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are both kinds of cancer that begin in lymphocytes, though their main difference "is in the specific lymphocyte each involves," according to the Mayo Clinic.

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What are the symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that a person might notice include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue

  • Unexplainable weight loss

  • Fever

How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma treated?

There are many different treatment options for people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The goal of the treatments is typically to kill cancer cells or prevent them from dividing, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and some include:

  • Watchful waiting/active surveillance: If a person has a slow-growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma and no symptoms, a medical provider may advise that they wait to pursue treatment until they begin experiencing symptoms.

  • Traditional systemic chemotherapy: A person may also take drugs that attack cancer cells in their body. These drugs are traditionally administered intravenously.

  • Targeted therapy: This kind of treatment uses medicines that can target cancer cells and damage the lymphoma cells to control their spread, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

What is the survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

According to the American Cancer Society, which relies on information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database maintained by the National Cancer Institute, the overall five-year relative survival rate for people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 73%. A relative survival rate “compares people with the same type and stage of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) to people in the overall population,” according to the organization.

However, survival rates can vary depending on the person. Fonda in her September Instagram post called her condition “a very treatable cancer,” adding that “80% of people survive, so I feel very lucky.”

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Are there causes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

In most cases, a doctor will not know what causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, some factors that may increase a person’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can include medications that suppress your immune system, infections with certain viruses and bacteria (such as HIV and Epstein-Barr infections), chemicals (such as those used to kill weeds and insects), and more.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jane Fonda: What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Is the cancer curable?