The survival rate of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is generally lower than that of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it’s still often curable.

Lymphoma is a group of more than 70 cancers that start in the lymph system. The two main subcategories are Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Doctors differentiate them based on how cancer cells look under a microscope.

The American Cancer Society reports an overall 5-year relative survival rate for lymphoma of 72 percent. Survival rates tend to be highest in lymphomas caught in the early stages and that are slow-growing.

Read on to learn more about the short- and long-term outlook for people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes more than 60 types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are often curable with proper treatment. Doctors may consider the cancer cured if you’re in complete remission for 5 years or more.

Remission is when the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. If they go away completely, doctors consider you in complete remission.

Most cancers that return do so within 5 years. Your doctor may be reluctant to use the term “cured” because even if you’ve been in complete remission for more than 5 years, there’s a small chance the cancer will come back.

Lymphomas are classified as “aggressive” if they’re expected to progress quickly and “indolent” if they’re slow-growing.

People with indolent lymphomas generally have a better outlook. The most common type of aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). The most common indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is follicular lymphoma.

The 5-year relative overall survival of DLBCL is 73 percent, and it’s 96 percent for follicular lymphoma, states the American Cancer Society.

After you receive a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, your oncology team can help you develop a treatment plan.

Undergoing cancer treatment can be difficult for you and your family. Many people face problems such as:

  • physical impairments
  • fatigue
  • stress
  • financial difficulties

In a 2018 study, researchers found that people with stage 3 or 4 or aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma had significantly worse general health and physical functioning than people with indolent or stage 1 or 2 cancer at the time of diagnosis.

In the study, survivors of aggressive lymphoma experienced more fatigue, shortness of breath, insomnia, and appetite loss. But at a follow-up an average of 4 years later, there was no difference between the groups.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that physical and mental quality of life scores of lymphoma survivors dropped after treatment, but they improved over the next 2 years in most study participants. About a fifth of participants had persistently lowered quality of life scores even past 2 years.

In another 2018 study, researchers found that the quality of life of aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivors may improve comparably to the quality of life of the general population with longer survival, mostly due to physical improvements.

Doctors often use 5-year survival rates to estimate the chances of survival from a cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 70 percent means 70 percent of people with a certain cancer are expected to be alive 5 years later.

Relative 5-year overall survival rate is also commonly used. A relative 5-year survival rate compares the number of people still alive with a certain cancer to the number people without the cancer to isolate deaths directly caused by the disease.

For example, a relative 5-year overall survival rate of 70 percent means a person with a certain cancer has a 70 percent chance of being alive 5 years later compared with a person without the cancer.

Survival rates are sometimes reported for other intervals, such as 1, 3, 10, and 15 years.

5-year survival rate

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), the 5-year relative survival rate for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is:

StageRelative 5-year survival rate

10-year survival rate

According to SEER, the 10-year relative survival rate for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is:

StageRelative 10-year survival rate

The International Prognostic Index is used to estimate the outlook of most types of lymphoma:

FactorPositive outlookNegative outlook
Agebelow 60above 60
Stagestage 1 or 2stage 3 or 4
Spreadlymphoma in 1 or no areas outside lymph nodeslymphoma in more than 1 organ outside of lymph nodes
Performancenormal daily functionneed significant help with daily activities
Serum lactate dehydrogenasenormal levelshigh levels

Your outlook also depends on your overall health and the specific type of lymphoma you have.

Does treatment type affect outlook?

The outlook for people with lymphoma has improved in recent years, largely due to improvements in treatments like targeted therapies.

For example, the 1-year relative survival rate of non-Hodgkin’s’ lymphoma in 2000 was 77.7 percent, but by 2017, it increased to 82.6 percent.

A large reason why younger people and people in better health generally have a better outlook is that they can handle more chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but side effects become more likely at higher doses.

Your oncology team can help recommend the best treatment for you.

Was this helpful?

Life expectancy statistics can give you a general idea of what to expect, but it’s important to talk with your oncology team to get an individualized outlook.

Life expectancy statistics don’t consider individual factors that influence your response to treatment, like your age and overall health.

Actual chances of survival are often higher than life expectancy statistics suggest. Generally, statistics are updated about every 5 years, but treatment may improve over this time frame.

The outlook for people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma isn’t generally as good as that of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it still has a better outlook than many other cancers. More than 70 percent of people live longer than 5 years after their diagnosis.

Your outlook depends on factors such as your overall health, age, and the type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma you have. Your healthcare team can give you the best idea of what to expect.