Doctors classify lymphomas into four stages. The stage depends on where the disease develops and how far it has spread. Knowing the stage can help healthcare professionals determine the best treatment options and a person’s outlook. However, other factors can also contribute.

Lymphoma is a group of cancers that develop in white blood cells called lymphocytes. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

As with many types of cancer, there are four stages of lymphoma. The earlier stages tend to be more treatable, as the disease has not spread far to other parts of the body.

The outlook for lymphoma depends on many factors, including the stage and the type. Overall, the prognosis is generally favorable.

This article outlines the stages of lymphoma, including the survival rates and outlook.

A person analyzing imaging results in order to determine lymphoma stage-1.Share on Pinterest
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The stage of lymphoma describes the location of the cancer and how widespread it is. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), doctors use the Lugano classification to stage lymphoma. There are four stages, which health experts simplify into limited (early) stage or advanced stage cancer.

Doctors use roman numerals from I to IV, referring to 1–4. If lymphoma is affecting an organ outside of the lymph system, known as extra-nodal, doctors add an “E.”

Medical professionals use a variety of tests, such as biopsies and blood panels, to determine the stage of a person’s lymphoma. Staging can also have a direct effect on someone’s outlook. A 5-year relative survival rate helps indicate how long an individual with lymphoma will live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program provides the following 5-year relative survival rates for each stage below:

Stage 1

Stage 1 is the earliest stage of lymphoma. A medical professional will diagnose stage 1 if the cancer cells develop in a single lymph node region (LNR). This can include the:

  • spleen
  • thymus, an organ that is part of the lymphatic system
  • Waldeyer’s ring, a lymphoid tissue in the throat
  • one or more lymph nodes in a single LNR

Stage 1 also refers to lymphoma in an organ outside the lymphatic system but not any lymph node regions. Doctors classify this as stage IE. The 5-year relative survival rate for stage 1 NHL is 86.5%.

Stage 2

When a person’s lymphoma reaches stage 2, the cancer has reached two or more LNRs on the same side of the diaphragm. This means there are two affected LNRs in the upper body or lower part of a person’s body.

In some cases, when one LNR is affected and the cancer has also spread to a nearby organ, doctors will diagnose stage 2E. Of those with stage 2 of the disease who receive treatment, 78.1% will survive for at least 5 years.

Stage 3

If the lymphoma is affecting regions in both the upper and lower body, the disease has progressed past stage 2 to stage 3.

Doctors also diagnose stage 3 if they detect lymphoma in a lymph node above the diaphragm and in the spleen. Of people with stage 3 lymphoma, 72.3% will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Stage 4

This is the advanced stage of lymphoma. Doctors diagnose stage 4 of the disease when the lymphoma has become widespread in an organ outside the lymphatic system.

The lymphoma may have spread to the:

The 5-year relative survival rate for stage 4 NHL is 63.9%.

A doctor might talk with a person about their stage of lymphoma using a letter classification system. This information can help a doctor find the treatment plan for an individual.

The following classifications give more information about the symptoms someone is experiencing and how the lymphoma is affecting different parts of the body. For example, B symptoms are more common in people with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma.

A A person is not experiencing B symptoms such as unexplained weight loss,
night sweats, and fever.
BA person is experiencing B symptoms.
EAn individual with early stage lymphoma.
XOne or more of a person’s affected lymph nodes are large or bulky.
SLymphoma is in a person’s spleen.

A doctor uses the following terms when discussing lymphoma:

  • Resistant or progressive: This means the lymphoma has grown larger or spread during a person’s treatment.
  • Recurrent or relapsed: This means that the lymphoma went away with treatment but has now returned. Recurrence may occur shortly or a few years after an individual’s treatment. It might have returned to the same place as before or could develop in another part of the body. In these cases, doctors will need to re-stage the cancer again using the above system.

Many types of lymphoma are treatable and curable depending on the cancer stage and the health and age of the person. According to the LLS, Hodgkin lymphoma is highly curable, depending on some outside factors.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that NHL is also treatable and that more than 73.8% of people with a diagnosis will survive for at least 5 years.

With Hodgkin lymphoma, 89.1% of people who receive treatment will survive for at least 5 years.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Doctors categorize the disease into four stages, with each referring to how the lymphoma is affecting a person’s body and how far it has spread.

The survival rates vary widely depending on various factors, including the stage and type of cancer. Stage 4, which refers to advanced lymphoma, has lower survival rates than rates in other stages, but doctors can still cure the condition in some cases.

People with a lymphoma diagnosis should discuss their treatment options and outlook with their doctor. Early diagnosis can improve an individual’s chances of successful treatment.