Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is in the news following the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, at the age of 65. The disease is a type of cancer that affects the body's lymphatic system. Lymph is a colorless, watery fluid that carries infection-fighting cells known as lymphocytes and which travels throughout the body via tiny tubes known as lymph vessels.
Keep clicking to learn more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other famous people who battled the disease...
Former first lady Jackie Kennedy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 1994 and died of the disease a few months later.
"She had an aggressive cancer that was treated aggressively and that initially responded to therapy, but it came back in her brain and spread through her body," a health care worker familiar with her treatment told The New York Times.
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" star Gene Wilder was treated successfully for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He told CNN's Larry King Live in 2002 that he had "a unique form" of the disease that went into "complete remission" following chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant.
Wilder died in 2016 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
How common is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
Just a few decades ago, non-Hodgkin lymphoma was a relatively rare disease. Now it's one of the 10 most common cancers in the U.S.
Each year, about 74,600 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed, and about 19,900 people will die from the disease, according to 2018 estimates from the American Cancer Society.
What causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
Doctors don't know the precise cause but have identified several risk factors. A diet that is high in meat and dietary fat is one major risk factor, along with exposure to certain pesticides or herbicides or taking immunosuppressant drugs in the aftermath of an organ transplant. Other risk factors include having an autoimmune disease, such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren syndrome, or HIV/AIDS.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in people over the age of 60, although it can strike at any age, including in children. Men are at greater risk than women, and whites at greater risk than blacks, according to the American Cancer Society.
What are the warning signs?
Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, and swollen lymph glands in the neck, underarm, groin, or stomach. Some people feel very tired and experience skin rashes and/or pain in the chest, abdomen, or bones.
Since these can also be symptoms of many other conditions, the Lymphoma Research Foundation suggests seeking medical attention if any of the signs or symptoms last longer than two weeks, or sooner if it's severe enough to impact daily life.
How is the disease treated?
There are more than 80 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. These are divided into two broad categories: B-cell lymphomas, which account for about 85 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and T-cell lymphomas. The types differ in how they affect the body and how they are treated.
As with other forms of cancer, some combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and so-called targeted therapy - in which specially tailored drugs are used to attack specific cancer cells - are used. Some cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are aggressive. Others are slow-growing, which makes it possible simply to watch and wait to see how they progress. Some indolent cases turn aggressive, and vice versa.
How survivable is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
The most recent data suggest that about 71 percent of people of all races with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are still alive five years after diagnosis. That's up from significantly since the early 1960s. Children tend to fare better, with 87 percent living for at least five years after diagnosis.