Your doctor will determine the extent of your disease's progression by staging. Staging helps your doctor predict the disease's progression and develop a treatment plan.
NHL doesn't always begin in stage I and spread to more advanced stages. More than half of all patients with intermediate or aggressive disease and more than 80 percent of all patients with indolent disease are diagnosed with stage III or IV NHL. And if someone is diagnosed in stage IV, it doesn't mean that the disease is incurable - it may be highly curable depending on the subtype.
Some lymphomas can be described as "extranodal," which means they affect areas or organs other than the lymph nodes or have spread to other tissues near the major lymphatic areas. To identify extranodal lymphomas when staging, doctors place the letter "E" after a stage's Roman numeral.
Number and Location of Affected Lymph Nodes and Organs
One lymph node region
One area or organ other than the lymph nodes
Two or more lymph node regions that are:
Several lymph node regions both above and below the diaphragm
Categories A and B
Stages are further divided into A and B categories to indicate whether patients have certain symptoms:
- A Category: No fever, no excessive night sweating and no weight loss are present.
- B Category: Fever, excessive night sweating and weight loss are present.
For example, if you were diagnosed with stage IIB non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you would:
- have affected lymph nodes in two close regions of your body (such as the neck and collarbone or the neck and armpit) and
- be suffering from fever, excessive night sweating and weight loss
Your treatment depends on your stage and category. Patients who fall in the B category usually need more aggressive treatment than A category patients do.