Skip Navigation

About Childhood Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

  • Lymphoblastic lymphoma is a cancer of immature lymphocytes, cells of the immune system, called lymphoblasts. It is a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphoblastic lymphoma primarily affects children and accounts for about 35% of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas in children.

    Learn more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including causes and symptoms in children and teens.

    Types of Childhood Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

    The type of lymphoblast that causes lymphoblastic lymphoma can be either a T-lymphoblast, causing T-lymphoblastic lymphoma (T-LL), or a B-lymphoblast, causing B-lymphoblastic lymphoma (B-LL).

    These are the same type of cells that cause the most common forms of childhood leukemia: B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) and T-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). The difference between lymphoblastic lymphoma and lymphoblastic leukemia is the percent of cancer cells that are present in the bone marrow at diagnosis. Whereas lymphoblastic lymphoma may present only with enlarged lymph nodes and no cancer cells in the blood or bone marrow, lymphoblastic leukemia usually has cancer cells visible in the blood and has more than 25% of the bone marrow replaced by cancer cells.

    T-lymphoblastic lymphoma is more common than B-lymphoblastic lymphoma and often starts in the thymus, located in a part of the upper chest called the mediastinum. This type of lymphoma may present itself with symptoms of cough, breathing difficulty or swelling of the head and neck due to the tumor pressing on the windpipe or large veins above the heart. T-LL can grow very quickly; making the diagnosis and starting treatment may be an emergency. B-lymphoblastic lymphoma often presents in the lymph nodes, skin or bone and usually is more slow-growing than T-LL.

    Both types of lymphoblastic lymphoma can spread to all parts of the body, including the fluid around the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) and in boys, to the testes. Bone marrow may have cancer cells evident. If there are more than 25% cancer cells in the bone marrow, then it is called leukemia instead of lymphoma.

    How We Treat Childhood Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

    Children with lymphoblastic lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Childhood Lymphoma Program in our Childhood Hematologic Malignancy Center. Dana-Farber/Boston Children's offers internationally renowned care for children with cancers of the blood and immune system.

    Dana-Farber/Boston Children's also offers a wide array of support services and programs for pediatric patients and their families during and after cancer treatment.

    Childhood lymphoblastic lymphoma is treated with the same treatment regimens that are used for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The cure rate for both conditions is high.

    Learn more about how Dana-Farber/Boston Children's treats childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia to understand the treatment of lymphoblastic lymphoma.

    Long-term Follow-up for Children with Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

    Childhood cancer was once considered to be invariably fatal, but today, the majority of children diagnosed with cancer can expect to be long-term survivors.

    Along with survivorship come numerous complex issues: the long-term effects of treatment and the risk of second cancers, as well as social and psychological concerns. For these reasons, survivors of childhood lymphoblastic lymphoma should receive regular follow-up monitoring and care.

    Since 1993, physicians, nurses, researchers, and psychologists in our pediatric cancer survivorship programs at the David B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber have helped thousands of childhood cancer survivors, treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's and at other hospitals in New England and elsewhere, to manage these long-term challenges of surviving cancer.

    Childhood Lymphoblastic Lymphoma Treatment Team

    Dana-Farber/Boston-Children's patients have access to the broadest set of pediatric hematologic and oncologic expertise available. The breadth of our expertise allows us to assemble a team of specialists to meet the specific needs of your child.

    See a complete list of the specialists in our Childhood Hematologic Malignancy Center.