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What is an Indolent Lymphoma?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Indolent lymphoma is a type of lymphoma which moves very slowly through the body. It is also known as low grade lymphoma. When a patient's lymphoma is identified as indolent, it can be a determining factor in the approach to treatment. Some treatments are not suitable for this type of lymphoma, and others may not be well advised, depending on the patient's specific situation.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes, blood cells which comprise part of the immune system. There are a number of different kinds of lymphoma, which can involve different types of lymphocytes and move at different rates. When a patient is diagnosed with lymphoma, part of the diagnostic process involves a detailed examination of the patient's lymphocytes to determine which types are involved and to determine whether the cancer is high or low grade.

In patients with indolent lymphoma, the cancer moves so slowly that the patient may survive for a decade or more without aggressive treatment. Some treatments may not be effective because of the way the cancer is developing and spreading, while in other cases, chemotherapy, radiation, and other options can knock out the cancer, allowing the patient to go into remission.

Sometimes, a doctor may recommend taking a conservative approach to indolent lymphoma treatment. Instead of actively treating the patient's lymphoma, the doctor may wait and see, monitoring the patient for emerging problems and controlling complications of the lymphoma as they emerge. The costs and potential prognosis with aggressive treatment may not be worth it in these cases, making a no treatment approach a better option. In patients who are not being actively treated for the cancer, regular follow-up visits are needed to check on the spread of the cancer and to go over any medical issues.

Because lymphoma is an umbrella term for a large family of cancers, and indolent lymphoma covers a number of different types of cancers within this family, it is a good idea to talk about specifics with a doctor. The doctor can go over the specific type of indolent lymphoma the patient has, the prognosis given the patient's condition, and other details which people can use when making an informed decision about treatment. Patients are never obligated to accept treatment, and they are also not obligated to refuse it; if a patient does not think that the conservative approach is appropriate, he or she can consult another doctor to get more information about options.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Jul 29, 2011

@Latte31 -I guess if there is a silver lining at all with this disease is that the cancer spreads very slowly. That gives researchers a chance to possibly develop drugs that can slow the growth of the cancer even more and eventually one day there will be a cure. It must be hard to live with a condition like this, but at least it is not as aggressive as other types of cancers.

By latte31 — On Jul 28, 2011

@Icecream17 -How sad.I know that this is a condition that affects a lot of people and famous people are not exempt. In fact a number of famous people have been affected by this condition.

Some of the most famous people affected with indolent lymphoma are Charles Lindberg the famous aviator, Robin Bush the daughter of President George H. W. Bush, First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the famous baseball player Mickey Mantle, and Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee.

There are really a lot more people that live with this condition and hopefully one day there will be a cure.

By icecream17 — On Jul 28, 2011

I was reading that this type of indolent lymphoma is also referred to as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They say that this type of lymphoma is seen more often in white men.

I also read that the odds of getting this disease are 1 in 55 and the usual treatments when the cancer resurfaces involve a bone marrow transplant.

I remember when I was a kid; there was a boy in my eighth grade class that had indolent lymphoma. He had it for a few years before and it started to get aggressive when he hit eighth grade. His sister donated some bone marrow, but he eventually died.

I know that lymphoma and cancers in general tend to be more aggressive with younger people. It was really a shame.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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