Childhood Lymphoma

Childhood lymphomas are complex conditions that require expert care. We use advanced techniques to treat children with Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Lymphomas account for about 8 percent of childhood cancers. If your child receives a lymphoma diagnosis, where you seek treatment matters. At Johns Hopkins All Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, our experts have decades of experience treating all types of childhood lymphoma.

Our compassionate team understands the challenges of lymphoma treatment for your child — and your whole family. In addition to advanced treatments, we provide social, emotional and practical support. 

Throughout the process, we’ll be with you, helping you and your family navigate through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.

What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is cancer that starts in the body’s lymphatic (lymph) system, an essential part of the body’s immune system. The lymph system is made up of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. These cells help fight off infection from viruses, bacteria and fungi. When cancerous cells begin to grow in the lymphocytes, they can quickly spread throughout the lymph system to other areas of the body.

There are two main types of lymphoma that affect different lymphocytes:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma: This type of lymphoma is most common in teens and young adults. It is rare in young children.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): This type of lymphoma is more common in children up to age 14. It occurs two to three times more often in boys than girls.  

What Causes Lymphoma in Children?

Doctors and scientists don’t know the exact cause of lymphoma. One theory suggests that it may result from the body’s response to a virus or infection, such as Epstein-Barr. If your child’s immune system isn’t functioning properly, the lymphocytes meant to fight off infection may divide and multiply abnormally.

Environmental factors or genetics may also increase the risk of childhood lymphoma.

What Are the Early Symptoms of Lymphoma in Children?

Lymphoma begins in the lymph system. One of the first signs is often a swollen lymph node near the neck, underarms, collarbone or groin. You can feel an enlarged lymph node as a bump under the skin, but they are usually not painful.

Other symptoms that may indicate lymphoma include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss 

How Do We Diagnose Lymphoma?

If your child has lymphoma symptoms, your doctor will order various tests to confirm a diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Lymph node biopsy: If the affected lymph node is close to the skin’s surface, we can use a thin needle to remove tissue samples. Deeper lymph nodes may require surgery to remove all or part of the lymph node. Once we have a sample, we analyze it in the lab to determine the presence and type of lymphoma.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: Using a thin, hollow needle, we remove bone marrow samples to check for signs of lymphoma.
  • Lumbar puncture: This test is sometimes called a spinal tap. We use a thin, hollow needle to remove a spinal fluid sample and check it for lymphoma cells.  

Lymphoma Treatments We Offer

With the right treatment, we can cure lymphoma in many children. Your child’s doctor will explain the benefits and risks of your treatment options. Recommended therapies depend on the type of lymphoma and your child’s age and overall health.

At Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, we offer the most advanced therapies available for childhood lymphoma on Florida’s west coast, including:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses targeted medications to destroy cancer cells. We use varying doses of chemotherapy and sometimes combinations of different chemotherapy drugs. The goal is to put the cancer into remission. Remission means that the body stops making new lymphoma cells. We also use chemotherapy to prepare your child for a bone marrow transplant.
  • Immunotherapy: We use medications, such as nivolumab and brentuximab, that help the body’s immune system target and kill lymphoma cells.
  • Radiation: Doses of high-energy radiation can help kill or slow the growth of lymphoma cells. We often use radiation along with chemotherapy. Sometimes, we use the combination as part of your child’s preparation for a bone marrow transplant.
  • Bone marrow transplant (BMT): A bone marrow transplant can be a lifesaving treatment for aggressive pediatric lymphoma. Our expertise with different transplant types means better outcomes for our patients. Learn more about our stem cell and bone marrow transplant program.
  • CAR T-cell therapy: We are one of the few pediatric cancer centers in Florida to offer this innovative treatment for childhood lymphoma. A patient’s blood cells are genetically modified to recognize and attack lymphoma cells. Our team performs a high volume of CAR T-cell therapy treatments with excellent success rates. Learn more about our CAR T-cell therapy program.
  • Clinical trials: As a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, we offer access to leading-edge treatments. Your child can participate in Johns Hopkins clinical trials without leaving Florida. We also collaborate with Children’s Oncology Group and other pediatric hospitals to provide the latest treatment options and improve childhood lymphoma survival rates. Learn more about our current lymphoma clinical trials.

Contact Us

To find out more about pediatric lymphoma treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, call us at 727-767-4176. We serve families throughout the greater Tampa Bay area and beyond.  

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