Lymphoblastic lymphoma

by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC and Aleksandra Paliga MD FRCPC
May 2, 2024

Lymphoblastic lymphoma is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that primarily affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell crucial for the immune system. It is similar to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in terms of the cells it involves and its aggressive nature, but while ALL primarily affects the bone marrow and blood, lymphoblastic lymphoma primarily involves the lymph nodes and other lymphoid tissues.

What are the most common types of lymphoblastic lymphoma?

Lymphoblastic lymphoma is generally classified based on the type of lymphocyte it originates from:

  • T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma: This is the most common type, accounting for about 90% of cases. It often presents with a mass in the mediastinum (the area of the chest between the lungs), which can cause breathing difficulties and other symptoms.
  • B-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma: This type is much less common and can present similarly to B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Who gets lymphoblastic lymphoma?

Lymphoblastic lymphoma is most commonly diagnosed in adolescents and young adults, although it can occur at any age. It is more common in males than in females.

What are the symptoms of lymphoblastic lymphoma?

The symptoms of lymphoblastic lymphoma vary depending on where the tumor is located but commonly include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes, which may or may not be painful.
  • Chest pain or pressure, cough, and shortness of breath if the tumor is in the chest area.
  • Fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss (common symptoms of lymphomas).
  • Fatigue and general weakness.

More severe symptoms can occur if the disease spreads to the central nervous system.

What causes lymphoblastic lymphoma?

The exact cause of lymphoblastic lymphoma is not well understood, but it is thought to involve genetic mutations in lymphocytes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Factors that may contribute to the development of these mutations include:

  • Genetic predisposition: A family history of lymphoma or other cancers can increase risk.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain chemicals or radiation.
  • Immune system dysfunction: Conditions that compromise immune function might play a role.

Learn more about your pathology report:

B-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma
T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma

About this article

This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have any questions about this article or your pathology report. Read this article for a more general introduction to the parts of a typical pathology report.

Other helpful resources

Atlas of Pathology
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