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Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)

What is it?

DLBCL is an aggressive B-cell NHL and is the most common type of NHL accounting for 30% to 40% of all cases. The average age of diagnosis for DLBCL is the mid-sixties, however this cancer can also affect adolescents and children.

Mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma is a sub-type of DLBCL, where the cancer arises in the thymus gland and lymph nodes behind the mediastinum (the area in the middle of the chest, between the lungs). Mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma can lead to symptoms of shortness of breath, cough and pain in the chest and cause swelling of the neck, arms and face due to the swollen lymph nodes pressing on the veins in the chest (this swelling is known as “superior vena cava obstruction”). This form of DLBCL may occur at any time from early adulthood to old age but is most common between the ages of 25 and 40 years. It is twice as common in women as in men.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of DLBCL is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin caused by enlarged lymph nodes. Often lymph nodes in more than one area of the body are affected.

Usually, the disease is widespread at the time of diagnosis, with symptoms including weight loss, fever and night sweats.

Some people have organ involvement at the time of diagnosis with the most common organs involved being the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract and the bone marrow.


The diagnosis of DLBCL is confirmed by a lymph node biopsy. When looked at under a microscope, the tumour cells of DLBCL appear large in size and display a diffuse or scattered pattern. Other tests including X-rays, bone marrow biopsy, CT scans and blood tests may also be performed.

How is it treated?

The standard treatment for DLBCL is a monoclonal antibody plus combination chemotherapy medicines. Other therapies include radiotherapy, stem-cell transplants and steroid therapies. This type of aggressive NHL is very sensitive to treatment and a large percentage of people with DLBCL can be cured.

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