Lymphoma — A Cancer That Knows No Boundary

With the death of United States senator and actor Fred Thompson on November 1 at 73 from lymphoma, people are wondering what the multi-faceted disease actually means. Generally speaking, people hear about lymphoma as either Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though this disease can also affect children. As a result, people may be curious as to what this unique form of cancer means for those stricken with it.

(Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

According to the New York Daily News, Thompson was known for roles on Law and Order, Cape Fear, and The Good Wife, among other appearances. As an attorney, he provided legal counsel to the Senate committee involved in the Watergate investigation, according to the Atlantic. Former vice president Al Gore was effusive in his praise of Thompson, who died following a recurrence of lymphoma.

“At a moment of history’s choosing, Fred’s extraordinary integrity while working with Senator Howard Baker on the Watergate Committee helped our nation find its way,” Gore said. “I was deeply inspired by his matter-of-fact, no nonsense moral courage in that crucible. Tennessee and our nation owe a great debt to Fred Thompson. We will miss him.”

Hollywood mourned the loss of the attorney/senator/actor yesterday.


Lymphoma is a type of cancer which starts in the lymphocytes, or white blood cells, which make up part of the body’s immune system. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most commonly diagnosed in people ranging in age from 15 to 40 years, but the diagnosis does not mean a lack of hope. In fact, the five and ten year survival rates for Hodgkin’s lymphoma currently sits at 85 and 80 percent, respectively. In 2015, there were about 9,050 new cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosed, and 1,150 deaths from the disease — in both cases, males were the predominant victims, though females were also diagnosed with lymphoma.

Lymphoma - A Cancer That Knows No Boundary
(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society)

Unfortunately, even children are not immune to having lymphoma. It is not that common, but children can receive a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis. The American Cancer Society recommends that parents ask their child’s doctor questions about the diagnosis, should it occur, and the suggested questions center largely around fertility and whether the child will be able to have children in the future.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States. It is estimated that in 2015, nearly 20,000 people will die from this form of cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, death rates from the disease have been steadily dropping since the 1990s.

There are a range of ongoing clinical trials regarding the treatment and research of lymphoma. Lymphoma News Today reports that there are five basic types of clinical trials: interventional trials, where various medical therapies are tested on patients with lymphoma; prevention trials, where ways of stopping lymphoma from developing are explored; diagnostic and screening trials, where ways of more effectively diagnosing lymphoma are explored; observational trials, where a large group of people are studied in order to better understand this form of cancer; and quality of life trials, where ways of improving the quality of life for those stricken with lymphoma are explored.

Regardless of the methodology used to investigate lymphoma, it is still clear that more needs to be done to support the medical professionals and those dealing with the disease firsthand. Clinical trials might be a good first step for those facing a lymphoma diagnosis, as Fred Thompson did. To be sure, these trials are a proven way in which those diagnosed with lymphoma and other cancers could potentially learn about the latest treatments. Certainly, the National Lymphoma Foundation is a good place to start looking for information about this form of cancer and its various subtypes. It is through our own tenacity and that of medical researchers that further hope can be offered to lymphoma patients everywhere.

[Featured Image By Emmanuelm (Own work) | CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]