What is mantle cell lymphoma?

Mantle cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer that grows in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is responsible for moving fluids around the body and transporting the immune system. Mantle cell lymphoma is not common and is responsible for less than 10% of lymphoma diagnoses. It’s most often diagnosed in men in their 60’s or 70’s.


Initially, there may not be any symptoms of the disease. Symptoms of Mantle cell lymphoma can vary for each person, but some common symptoms can include the following:

  • Lymph node swelling, especially in the throat or neck area, under the arms, or in the groin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased blood counts
  • Easy bleeding or bruising


The ultimate diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma will be made once a biopsy is obtained. Imaging tests will likely be ordered when someone is suspected of having lymphoma. Standard imaging tests can include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans.

A biopsy often removes part or all of an enlarged lymph node. In some cases, a bone marrow biopsy may be done as well. Once mantle cell lymphoma is diagnosed, additional testing of chromosomes and other markers is done on the tumor to help determine the cancer’s grade and other characteristics.


The exact treatment for mantle cell lymphoma will be determined once the diagnosis is made and the cancer stage is known.

For some with a very slow-growing mantle cell lymphoma type, no treatment may be needed at first. They may undergo routine imaging and lab studies to evaluate the state of the disease.

If you have been diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, it is important to learn as much as possible about the disease and treatment options to make the best health decisions.

Lymphoma staging and how they affect treatment options

Lymphoma Staging

Once the biopsy confirms lymphoma, and all of the imaging has been done, the oncologist can stage the cancer. Staging describes how advanced the lymphoma is, and helps the oncologist determine the best treatment. 

Lymphoma staging is different from the staging for solid tumors such as lung cancer or breast cancer. The lymphoma staging system is determined based on the number of areas of lymph nodes that are affected, whether they are on the same or on both sides of the diaphragm (the muscle separating the chest from the abdomen), and if lymphoma is present in any solid organs. 

Lymphoma Treatment

Once the staging is determined, and the type of lymphoma has been diagnosed, the oncologist can develop the treatment plan. Chemotherapy is often used for both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. 

Chemotherapy is medication that is used to stop the division of cells, causing cell death. Because cancer cells are abnormal and usually grow out of control, they are killed by chemotherapy. Unfortunately, chemotherapy can cause side effects because healthy cells are affected as well. The exact chemotherapy regimen can change from person to person based on the type of lymphoma they have. Some examples of chemotherapy that may be used include:

  • Adriamycin
  • Bleomycin
  • Cytoxan
  • Vincristine
  • Etoposide
  • Bendamustine
  • Carboplatin
  • Methotrexate


Combinations of chemotherapy are most often used to treat lymphoma. 

Immunotherapy is often used to treat lymphoma as well. Immunotherapy medications work by alerting the immune system to attack certain proteins on the outside of the lymphoma cells. These medications work differently than chemotherapy, but are often used along with chemo. 

Examples of immunotherapy include:

  • Rituxan
  • Gazyva
  • Arzerra
  • Adcetris

Radiation Therapy

Some types of both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma respond well to radiation. Radiation therapy uses high energy beams of radiation to treat and kill lymphoma cells. The radiation is most often given Monday through Friday for a period of a few weeks. Each treatment takes only a few minutes. This type of radiation is called external beam radiation.

Stem Cell Transplant

For people with certain types of lymphoma, or lymphoma that comes back quickly after treatment, a stem cell transplant may be suggested. During this treatment, high doses of chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation, are needed to completely kill the cancer cells. These high doses can cause the bone marrow to stop working properly, leaving someone at high risk for infection, severe anemia, or severe bleeding, because their blood cells are low. 

A stem cell transplant can be done by removing the stem cells from a person’s own body in the weeks before the procedure, which are frozen until they are ready to be used. Once the high doses of chemo are given, the stem cells are then infused back in, to help the bone marrow start to make blood cells again. 

Stem cells can also be used from a donor, either someone in the family or unrelated. They have to be a close match to the person who needs them though, or there is a high risk that the cells will be rejected, leading to many complications.


What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes, which have a role to play in your immune system. When the lymphocytes become abnormal, they no longer function normally and become cancerous. Lymphoma can start in either the B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes of the immune system. 

There are many types of lymphoma, which are separated into two general groups: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. To further subdivide non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there are over 50 subtypes. 

Signs and Symptoms

There can be many signs and symptoms associated with lymphoma. These can include:

  • Enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
  • Unexplained fevers or chills
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Severe itching
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing

Diagnostic tests

If someone is suspected of having lymphoma, or is experiencing symptoms that are suspicious and need further evaluation, a variety of tests may be ordered. 

Tests can include x-rays, which can show abnormal masses in the lungs that may be causing cough or shortness of breath. 

Another test that may be done is a CT scan, which can see abnormal lymph nodes as well as the other organs in the body to check for abnormalities. 

If lymphoma is confirmed or strongly suspected after the above tests, a PET scan may also be done. This type of imaging test shows not only the location of any abnormality, but also if those areas are actively growing or not. A sugar is attached to a radioactive tracer and given through an IV before the PET scan is done. The tracer is given time to circulate through the body, and then the person is scanned. Any areas of the body that take up alot of sugar, and are seen to be active, will be seen as bright areas on the screen. These areas may be very suspicious for cancer involvement. 


Ultimately a diagnosis of lymphoma is made through a biopsy. During a biopsy, a tissue sample from the suspicious lymph node is removed and tested for cancer cells. A biopsy can be done through a few different ways. 

In an excisional biopsy, an entire lymph node is removed to be evaluated for cancer. This is preferred when lymphoma is suspected, as sometimes just taking a small sample of a lymph node can miss the cancer cells. 

A needle biopsy may be done of a lymph node. During this procedure, a needle is placed into the suspicious area, and tissue is removed from it. Because less tissue is removed, it may not be as accurate of a way to diagnose lymphoma. 

Sometimes a bone marrow biopsy is done as well. During this procedure, a sample of bone and the marrow inside of it is removed from the hip area. The bone marrow is where blood cells are made, and it can be important to know if lymphoma cells are present there. This procedure is often done with anesthesia for patient comfort. 

Additional testing for specific chromosome changes and other markers may be done on the lymphoma tissue. This can help the oncologist with their treatment planning.

Are you interested in learning more about Lymphoma Staging and Treatments? Check out our next article on this topic.


We would love to hear your thoughts or questions.

Please fill and submit the form below and one of our program evangelists will reach out to you shortly.
Protected by reCAPTCHA

Thank you for recommending your support group!
We will be reaching out to invite your group to participate in our network.

Request to Access was submitted

A specialist with this email already exists in cancerGO

Request Physician/Specialist Access

We are excited about your interest in cancerGO! Physicians/specialists provide deep insights, novel clinical methods, and invaluable advice to patients, their loved ones, and the broader community.

Please fill below to request early access and we will get back to you shortly with further details.
Protected by reCAPTCHA