Your lymphatic system
Lymphoma is a disease that affects your lymphatic system. The different types of lymphoma depend on what types of cells are affected.
The lymphatic system is part of your body’s natural defence against infection, which is known as the immune system. Within your lymphatic system there’s a network of thin tubes called lymph vessels that run around your body.
The vessels collect fluid called lymph and return it to your blood. Lymph bathes all the cells in your body. It contains lots of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that fights infection), which carry nutrients and remove bacteria from infected areas.
Along the lymph vessels are small lumps of tissue called lymph nodes or lymph glands. There are many of these in your body. It may be possible for you to feel normal lymph nodes in the neck and groin, particularly if you’re slim.
If you get an infection when you’re healthy, these can swell and become tender, which people may refer to as swollen glands. As lymphocytes pass through the lymph nodes, they are changed and activated to fight certain types of infection. Your spleen is also part of your lymphatic system. It can do some of the same work as the lymph nodes. It also filters out old or damaged cells from the blood stream and helps to fight infection.
Your immune system
Your immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that protect your body against infection. It’s able to react quickly to infections it’s seen before, and lymphocytes play an important role in this. There are lots of different kinds of lymphocyte, including ones called T cells and B cells. These can be affected when you have lymphoma, which can increase the risk of infections. Your healthcare team can let you know about the ways to reduce your risk.