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Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®)

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Stage Information for Adult NHL

Staging Subclassification System

Stage is important in selecting a treatment for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Chest and abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans are usually part of the staging evaluation for all lymphoma patients. The staging system is similar to the staging system used for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Common among patients with NHL is involvement of the following:

  • Noncontiguous lymph nodes.
  • Waldeyer ring.
  • Epitrochlear nodes.
  • Gastrointestinal tract.
  • Extranodal presentations. (A single extranodal site is occasionally the only site of involvement in patients with diffuse lymphoma.)
  • Bone marrow.
  • Liver (especially common in patients with low-grade lymphomas).

Cytologic examination of cerebrospinal fluid may be positive in patients with aggressive NHL. Involvement of hilar and mediastinal lymph nodes is less common than in Hodgkin lymphoma. Mediastinal adenopathy, however, is a prominent feature of lymphoblastic lymphoma and primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, entities primarily found in young adults.

The majority of patients with NHL present with advanced (stage III or stage IV) disease that can often be identified with limited staging procedures such as CT scanning and biopsies of the bone marrow and other accessible sites of involvement. Laparoscopic biopsy or laparotomy is not required for staging but may be necessary to establish a diagnosis or histologic type.[1] Positron emission tomography (PET) with fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose can be used for initial staging and for follow-up after therapy as a supplement to CT scanning.[2-6] Interim PET scans after two to four cycles of therapy did not provide reliable prognostic information because of problems of interobserver reproducibility in a large cooperative group trial (ECOG-E344 [NCT00274924]) and lack of difference in outcome between PET-negative and PET-positive/biopsy-negative patients in two prospective trials.[7-9]

Staging Subclassification System

Table 2. Anatomic Stage/Prognostic Groupsa
Stage Prognostic Groups  
IInvolvement of a single lymphatic site (i.e., nodal region, Waldeyer ring, thymus or spleen) (I).
OR
Localized involvement of a single extralymphatic organ or site in the absence of any lymph node involvement (IE) (rare in Hodgkin lymphoma).
IIInvolvement of two or more lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm (II).
OR
Localized involvement of a single extralymphatic organ or site in association with regional lymph node involvement with or without involvement of other lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm (IIE). The number of regions involved may be indicated by a subscript Arabic numeral, for example, II3.
IIIInvolvement of lymph node regions on both sides of the diaphragm (III), which also may be accompanied by extralymphatic extension in association with adjacent lymph node involvement (IIIE) or by involvement of the spleen (IIIS) or both (IIIE, IIIS). Splenic involvement is designated by the letter S.
IVDiffuse or disseminated involvement of one or more extralymphatic organs, with or without associated lymph node involvement.
OR
Isolated extralymphatic organ involvement in the absence of adjacent regional lymph node involvement, but in conjunction with disease in distant site(s). Stage IV includes any involvement of the liver or bone marrow, lungs (other than by direct extension from another site), or cerebrospinal fluid.
aReprinted with permission from American Joint Committee on Cancer: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. In Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 607–11.

The Ann Arbor staging system is commonly used for patients with NHL.[10,11] In this system, stage I, stage II, stage III, and stage IV adult NHL can be subclassified into A and B categories: B for those with well-defined generalized symptoms and A for those without such symptoms. The B designation is given to patients with any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained loss of more than 10% of body weight in the 6 months before diagnosis.
  • Unexplained fever with temperatures above 38°C.
  • Drenching night sweats.

Occasionally, specialized staging systems are used. The physician should be aware of the system used in a specific report.

The E designation is used when extranodal lymphoid malignancies arise in tissues separate from, but near, the major lymphatic aggregates. Stage IV refers to disease that is diffusely spread throughout an extranodal site, such as the liver. If pathologic proof of involvement of one or more extralymphatic sites has been documented, the symbol for the site of involvement, followed by a plus sign (+), is listed.

Table 3. Notation to Identify Specific Sites
N = nodesH = liverL = lungM = bone marrow
S = spleenP = pleuraO = boneD = skin

Current practice assigns a clinical stage (CS) based on the findings of the clinical evaluation and a pathologic stage (PS) based on the findings made as a result of invasive procedures beyond the initial biopsy.

For example, on percutaneous biopsy, a patient with inguinal adenopathy and a positive lymphangiogram without systemic symptoms might be found to have involvement of the liver and bone marrow. The precise stage of such a patient would be CS IIA, PS IVA(H+)(M+).

A number of other factors that are not included in the above staging system are important for the staging and prognosis of patients with NHL. These factors include the following:

  • Age.
  • Performance status.
  • Tumor size.
  • Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) values.
  • The number of extranodal sites.

To identify subgroups of patients most likely to relapse, an international prognostic index was compiled for 2,031 patients with aggressive NHL.[12] After validation by several cancer centers,[13,14] the major cooperative groups have used this index in the design of new clinical trials. The model is simple to apply, reproducible, and predicts outcome even after patients have achieved a complete remission. The model identifies five significant risk factors prognostic of overall survival (OS):

  • Age (<60 years vs. >60 years).
  • Serum LDH (normal vs. elevated).
  • Performance status (0 or 1 vs. 2–4).
  • Stage (stage I or stage II vs. stage III or stage IV).
  • Extranodal site involvement (0 or 1 vs. 2–4).

Patients with two or more risk factors have a less than 50% chance of relapse-free survival and OS at 5 years. This study also identifies patients at high risk of relapse based on specific sites of involvement, including bone marrow, central nervous system, liver, lung, and spleen. The bcl-2 gene and rearrangement of the myc gene or dual overexpression of the myc gene, or both, confer a particularly poor prognosis.[15-18] Patients at high risk of relapse may benefit from consolidation therapy or other approaches under clinical evaluation.[12] Molecular profiles of gene expression using DNA microarrays may help to stratify patients in the future for therapies directed at specific targets and to better predict survival after standard chemotherapy.[19,20]

References
  1. Mann GB, Conlon KC, LaQuaglia M, et al.: Emerging role of laparoscopy in the diagnosis of lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 16 (5): 1909-15, 1998.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Zijlstra JM, Hoekstra OS, Raijmakers PG, et al.: 18FDG positron emission tomography versus 67Ga scintigraphy as prognostic test during chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Br J Haematol 123 (3): 454-62, 2003.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Juweid ME, Cheson BD: Role of positron emission tomography in lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 23 (21): 4577-80, 2005.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Juweid ME, Stroobants S, Hoekstra OS, et al.: Use of positron emission tomography for response assessment of lymphoma: consensus of the Imaging Subcommittee of International Harmonization Project in Lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 25 (5): 571-8, 2007.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Cheson BD, Pfistner B, Juweid ME, et al.: Revised response criteria for malignant lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 25 (5): 579-86, 2007.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  6. Terasawa T, Lau J, Bardet S, et al.: Fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography for interim response assessment of advanced-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: a systematic review. J Clin Oncol 27 (11): 1906-14, 2009.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  7. Horning SJ, Juweid ME, Schöder H, et al.: Interim positron emission tomography scans in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: an independent expert nuclear medicine evaluation of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group E3404 study. Blood 115 (4): 775-7; quiz 918, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  8. Moskowitz CH, Schöder H, Teruya-Feldstein J, et al.: Risk-adapted dose-dense immunochemotherapy determined by interim FDG-PET in Advanced-stage diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 28 (11): 1896-903, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  9. Pregno P, Chiappella A, Bellò M, et al.: Interim 18-FDG-PET/CT failed to predict the outcome in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients treated at the diagnosis with rituximab-CHOP. Blood 119 (9): 2066-73, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  10. Lymphoid neoplasms. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 599-628. 

  11. National Cancer Institute sponsored study of classifications of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas: summary and description of a working formulation for clinical usage. The Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Pathologic Classification Project. Cancer 49 (10): 2112-35, 1982.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  12. A predictive model for aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The International Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Prognostic Factors Project. N Engl J Med 329 (14): 987-94, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  13. Salles G, de Jong D, Xie W, et al.: Prognostic significance of immunohistochemical biomarkers in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: a study from the Lunenburg Lymphoma Biomarker Consortium. Blood 117 (26): 7070-8, 2011.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  14. Advani RH, Chen H, Habermann TM, et al.: Comparison of conventional prognostic indices in patients older than 60 years with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treated with R-CHOP in the US Intergroup Study (ECOG 4494, CALGB 9793): consideration of age greater than 70 years in an elderly prognostic index (E-IPI). Br J Haematol 151 (2): 143-51, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  15. Cuccuini W, Briere J, Mounier N, et al.: MYC+ diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is not salvaged by classical R-ICE or R-DHAP followed by BEAM plus autologous stem cell transplantation. Blood 119 (20): 4619-24, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  16. Johnson NA, Slack GW, Savage KJ, et al.: Concurrent expression of MYC and BCL2 in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treated with rituximab plus cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone. J Clin Oncol 30 (28): 3452-9, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  17. Green TM, Young KH, Visco C, et al.: Immunohistochemical double-hit score is a strong predictor of outcome in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treated with rituximab plus cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone. J Clin Oncol 30 (28): 3460-7, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  18. Horn H, Ziepert M, Becher C, et al.: MYC status in concert with BCL2 and BCL6 expression predicts outcome in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Blood 121 (12): 2253-63, 2013.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  19. Rosenwald A, Wright G, Chan WC, et al.: The use of molecular profiling to predict survival after chemotherapy for diffuse large-B-cell lymphoma. N Engl J Med 346 (25): 1937-47, 2002.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  20. Abramson JS, Shipp MA: Advances in the biology and therapy of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: moving toward a molecularly targeted approach. Blood 106 (4): 1164-74, 2005.  [PUBMED Abstract]