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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Stages

What does staging mean?

The stage of a cancer is how much and how far the cancer has spread in your body. Your healthcare provider uses exams and tests to find out the size of the cancer and where it is. Your provider can see if the cancer has grown into nearby areas. He or she can also tell if it has spread to other parts of your body. It’s very important to know the stage of your cancer. This helps to decide what kind of treatment you should have.   

The stages of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The staging system for non-Hodgkin lymphoma has 4 stages. It uses Roman numerals I, II, III, and IV.

A letter may also be added after the Roman numeral to give more information. It may be one of the following:

  • B is added if you have symptoms such as fever, night sweats, or weight loss. These are called B symptoms.

  • A means you don’t have any B symptoms.

  • E means the lymphoma has spread to an organ outside the lymphatic system.

  • S means the lymphoma has spread to your spleen.

The stages of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are:

Stage I is either of the following:

  • The cancer is in 1 group of lymph nodes (stage I).

  • The cancer is found only in 1 area of a single organ outside of the lymph system (stage IE).

Stage II is either of the following:

  • The cancer is in 2 or more groups of lymph nodes, either above or below your diaphragm (stage II). The diaphragm is a thin band of muscle that divides your chest and your belly or abdomen.

  • The cancer is in 1 organ and a group of nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the diaphragm (stage IIE).

Stage III is either of the following:

  • The lymphoma is in lymph nodes both above and below your diaphragm (stage III).

  • The cancer is in lymph nodes both above and below your diaphragm. It may also have spread into a nearby organ (stage IIIE), into your spleen (stage IIIS), or both (stage IIIES).

Stage IV is any of the following:

  • The lymphoma is in the bone marrow, liver, brain, or spinal cord. Or it is in the thin lining around the lungs, called the pleura.

  • The lymphoma has spread throughout one organ or tissue other than the lymph nodes.

  • The lymphoma is in an organ outside of the lymphatic system. It has also spread to lymph nodes or other organs far away from that organ.

Talking with your healthcare provider

When your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Make sure to ask any questions or talk about your concerns.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2017
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