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Survival

Find out about survival for non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Survival depends on many different factors. It depends on your individual condition, type of cancer, treatment and level of fitness. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. 

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival for low grade NHL

Low grade lymphomas can be difficult to get rid of completely. But they can be kept under control for several years.

There are no UK-wide survival statistics available for the different types and stages of NHL.

Survival statistics are available for each stage of follicular and marginal zone lymphoma in one area of England. These are for people diagnosed between 2004 and 2011.

Follicular lymphoma is the most common type of low grade lymphoma.  

Stage 1

Around 90 out of every 100 people (around 90%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 2

Almost 90 out of 100 people (almost 90%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 3 and stage 4

Almost 80 out of 100 people (almost 80%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Follicular Lymphoma International Prognostic Index (FLIPI)

Doctors use a scale to help them plan treatment. It is called the Follicular Lymphoma International Prognostic Index (FLIPI). It has 5 prognostic factors that doctors use to predict how people may respond to treatment. These 5 factors are:

  • being older than 60 years
  • having stage 3 or 4 follicular lymphoma
  • having a low red blood cell (haemoglobin) level
  • having more than 4 areas of lymph nodes affected with lymphoma
  • a higher than normal blood level of an enzyme called LDH (serum lactate dehydrogenase)

If you have no poor prognostic factors you have a score of 0. People with all of the poor prognostic factors have a score of 5. The doctor uses this score to divide people with follicular lymphoma into 3 groups:

  • low risk, if you have no or 1 poor prognostic factor
  • intermediate (moderate) risk,  if you have 2 poor prognostic factors
  • high risk, if you have 3 or more poor prognostic factors

A large 2004 French trial looked at the 5 and 10 year survival for these 3 risk groups. 

Low risk group

Around 90 out of every 100 people (around 90%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Around 70 out of every 100 people (around 70%) survive for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Intermediate risk group

Almost 80 out of every 100 people (almost 80%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Around 50 out of every 100 people (around 50%) survive for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed.

High risk group

More than 50 out of every 100 people (more than 50%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Around 35 out of every 100 (around 35%) survive for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Marginal zone lymphomas are slow growing B cell lymphomas. 

Stage 1

Around 80 out of 100 people (around 80%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 2

75 out of 100 people (75%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

Stage 3

More than 50 out of 100 people (more than 50%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 4

Around 65 out of 100 people (around 65%) will survive for 5 years of more after their diagnosis.

There are different types of marginal zone lymphomas. These are: 

  • extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, also known as mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma
  • nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma
  • splenic marginal zone B-cell lymphoma

Extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphomas have a slightly better outcome than the other types. Almost 90 out of 100 people with this type of marginal zone lymphoma (90%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Survival for high grade lymphomas

High grade (aggressive) lymphomas generally need more intensive treatment than the low grade types. But they often respond well to treatment. Many people are cured. 

There are no UK-wide survival statistics available for the different types and stages of NHL. Survival statistics are available for each stage of diffuse B cell lymphoma in one area of England. These are for people diagnosed between 2004 and 2011. 

Diffuse large B cell lymphoma is the most common type of high grade lymphoma.

Stage 1

Around 65 out of 100 people (around 65%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 2

Around 70 out of 100 people (around 70%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

Stage 3

Over 50 out of 100 people (over 50%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 4

Almost 50 out of 100 people (almost 50%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

Burkitt lymphoma is a less common type of high grade lymphoma which can grow quite quickly.

We don't have statistics for the different stages of Burkitt lymphoma. But overall, almost 60 out of 100 people with Burkitt lymphoma (almost 60%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Survival for all non Hodgkin lymphomas

Generally, for people with non Hodgkin lymphoma in England and Wales:

  • about 80 out of every 100 people (about 80%) survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • around 70 out of every 100 people (around 70%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • almost 65 out of every 100 people (almost 65%) survive their cancer for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed

What affects survival

Your outcome depends on the stage of the lymphoma when it was diagnosed. This means whether it has spread.

The type and grade also affects your likely survival. Grade is very important. It means how abnormal the cells look under the microscope. Low grade lymphomas tend to grow slower than high grade lymphomas.

A number of other factors also affect your outlook.

Prognostic index

For diffuse large B cell lymphoma, doctors group these factors together to make a prognostic index. A prognostic index is a way of trying to decide who has a greater risk of their lymphoma coming back after treatment.

This scale is only for people with diffuse large B cell lymphomas – not for people with low grade lymphomas.

To work out the prognostic index, you score one point for each of the following:

  • aged over 60
  • stage 3 or 4 lymphoma at diagnosis
  • a higher than normal blood level of an enzyme called LDH (lactate dehydrogenase)
  • performance status of more than 2 (see below)
  • non Hodgkin lymphoma in more than one site outside your lymphatic system (in your bones, for example)

Performance status is a scoring system that describes how well you are and how much you can look after yourself.

0 means you are fully active and well. Your performance status will be more than 2 if you need to stay in bed or a chair for more than half the day and need a lot of help to look after yourself.

If you have no poor prognostic factors you have a score of 0. People with all of the poor prognostic factors have a score of 5. 

  • A score of 0 or 1 means you are more likely to respond well to treatment, and your lymphoma is unlikely to come back.
  • A score of 2 means you are at moderately low risk of your lymphoma coming back.
  • A score of 3 means you have a moderately high risk of the lymphoma coming back.
  • A score of 4 or 5 means you are at a higher than average risk of not responding to treatment, or of having your lymphoma come back after treatment.

This prognostic index was created before doctors used rituximab to treat lymphoma. Rituximab may lower the risk of lymphoma coming back. So this might affect the prognostic index in the future.

About these statistics

The term 5 year survival doesn't mean you will only live for 5 years. It relates to the number of people who live 5 years or more after their diagnosis of cancer.

More statistics

Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve the outlook for people with non Hodgkin lymphoma.

Last reviewed: 
17 Jun 2015
  • Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN)
    Accessed May 2015

  • Follicular lymphoma international prognostic index.
    ​P Solal-Céligny and others
    Blood, 2004 September , Volume 104, Issue 5, Pages 1258-65

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
    K Shankland and others
    Lancet. 2012 September Volume 380, Issue 9844, Pages 848-57

  • Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK
    Accessed May 2015

  • Principles and practice of oncology (9th edition) 
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2014

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