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What is mantle cell lymphoma?

Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare type of non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Only about 5 to 10 out of every 100 people (5 to 10%) diagnosed with NHL have mantle cell lymphoma. It mainly affects men who are over 50.

Non Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system has tubes that branch through all parts of the body, similar to the arteries and veins that carry blood in the circulatory system. The lymphatic system carries a colourless liquid called lymph. This fluid circulates around the body tissues. It contains a high number of white blood cells (lymphocytes), which fight infection.

When you have lymphoma some of your white blood cells (lymphocytes) don't work properly. They start to divide constantly but don't develop fully. So they can't fight infection as normal white blood cells do. There are two main types of lymphocytes – B cells and T cells. Mantle cell lymphoma affects the B cells. The abnormal B lymphocytes start to collect in the lymph nodes or body organs. They can then form tumours and begin to cause problems within the lymphatic system or the organ where they are growing.

What are the symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma?

The symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma are similar to those of most other types of NHL. The most common symptom is one or more painless swellings in the: 

  • Neck 
  • Armpit 
  • Groin

Each swelling is an enlarged lymph node. If you have a swollen lymph node that does not go away after 6 weeks, you should see your GP.

Other general symptoms may include: 

  • Heavy sweating at night 
  • Temperatures that come and go with no obvious cause 
  • Losing a lot of weight (more than one tenth of your total weight) 

Mantle cell lymphoma can also spread to the bowel and in rare cases to the stomach. If this happens, it can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal (tummy) pain and sickness.

It is important for you to tell your doctor about any symptoms like this. Knowing that you have these symptoms helps your doctor to know which type of non Hodgkin lymphoma you have. Then they know which type of treatment you need. There is more information about the symptoms of NHL in this section.

Stage and grade of mantle cell lymphoma

Doctors put non Hodgkin lymphomas into 2 groups:

  • Low grade or indolent (slow growing) 
  • High grade or aggressive (fast growing)

The groups are determined by how quickly they are likely to grow and spread.

The appearance of the cells under the microscope (grade of NHL) helps doctors to decide on the best treatment for you. Mantle cell lymphoma looks like a low grade lymphoma under the microscope. But it often grows quickly, more like a high grade lymphoma. Unfortunately, it is often widespread when it is diagnosed. This means the lymphoma cells may be in the lymph nodes, the bone marrow and the spleen.

The stage is also very important in deciding about treatment. The stage of NHL means the number and position of the lymph nodes or other affected organs. 

Treating mantle cell lymphoma

Treatment for mantle cell lymphoma can be similar to treatment for other types of NHL. But it can be difficult to cure. It is a quickly growing type of NHL and people are often diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. Treatment can sometimes get rid of the lymphoma completely but it often comes back fairly soon afterwards.

The most common methods for treating Mantle Cell Lymphoma are: 

  • Chemotherapy (Chemotherapy is the most common type of treatment for people with mantle cell lymphoma). 
  • Stem cell or bone marrow transplant 
  • Radiotherapy (If you have stage 1 or 2 mantle cell lymphoma, you may have radiotherapy as a treatment on its own. Or you may have radiotherapy and chemotherapy together for advanced stages of the disease.)
  • Steroid therapy 
  • Biological therapy

For more information on Mantle Cell Lymphoma click here.

This link is to the Cancer Research UK website in the United Kingdom. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.

For information courtesy of Cancer Australia, please click here