Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do doctors know why people get non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?"
My grandmother got non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and it came out of nowhere. Why did this happen? Can it happen to me? Is it genetic?
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a term to describe a group of cancers that are made of immune cells that are growing out of control. There are many different types and many subtypes of lymphoma each with their own set of symptoms, treatments and prognosis. With only a few exceptions, lymphoma develops when normal cells of the immune system acquire a DNA mutation or some other change in their genes. This causes their growth to go uncontrolled. While we don't know exactly why these occur in some people in not others, most likely it is a combination of a person's genetics and environmental factors that occur throughout their lives. Often they develop without any preceding signs or symptoms. In the vast majority of cases, we never know exactly what caused a given case of lymphoma. In general, lymphomas are not considered to be inherited. In other words, just because your grandmother developed one does not mean that you will develop one. Since you share some genes with your grandmother, there is probably an extremely small increase in your chances of developing this cancer. This increase risk is probably not much more than everyone else. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. You can tell him or her which type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma your grandmother has and the two of you can discuss how that particular one develops. I hope your grandmother gets better.