photo of
1 / 13

What Is Mantle Cell Lymphoma?

It’s a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This means it affects your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. It forms in an area of your lymph nodes called the mantle zone. It takes over your B Cells, which normally make antibodies to fight infections. The cancerous B cells grow out of control and make your lymph nodes larger. The cancer can spread to your bone marrow, liver, and gastrointestinal tract.

Swipe to advance
photo of signs of mantle cell lymphoma cancer
2 / 13


Some people with mantle cell lymphoma have no obvious symptoms. This can delay a diagnosis. Others notice signs like weight loss, night sweats, fever, fatigue, nausea, and belly pain or bloating. 

Swipe to advance
photo of men relaxing after tennis
3 / 13

Who’s at Risk?

Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare cancer. It makes up only 6% of all non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. It mostly affects men over 60. White men are at a higher risk than black men. The cause is usually damage to your DNA instead of something you’ve inherited in your genes.

Swipe to advance
photo of stage 2 mantle cell lymphoma cancer
4 / 13

How It Progresses

Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor will check your cancer stage. This tells how much the cancer has spread. If you’re at:

  • Stage I: The cancer is in one lymph node or group of lymph nodes next to each other.
  • Stage II: It’s in two or more lymph nodes or groups of lymph nodes next to each other.
  • Stage III: It’s in lymph nodes on both sides of your diaphragm or nodes above your diaphragm and in your spleen.
  • Stage IV: It’s widespread. 
Swipe to advance
photo of doctor and patient
5 / 13


Most often, you’ll get chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Your doctor may also use radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplants. Surgery usually isn’t helpful. Your exact treatment plan will depend on many things. These include what stage your cancer is in, your overall health, and your age.

Swipe to advance
photo of chemotherapy drip
6 / 13


Cancerous B cells can travel through your bloodstream and spread. But chemotherapy drugs also travel through your bloodstream to kill cancer cells wherever they’re found. You’ll usually get a combination of drugs that includes rituximab (Rituxan). You’ll get the drugs through an IV.

Swipe to advance
photo of syringe and vial
7 / 13


Immunotherapy drugs use the natural disease-fighting power of your immune system. Some drugs attach to the surface of cancer cells so it’s easier for your immune system to find and kill them. Others boost the natural ability of your immune system cells (T cells) to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is often used with chemotherapy.

Swipe to advance
photo of radiation therapy
8 / 13


This treatment uses X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It will target a very specific area of your body, usually your lymph nodes. The treatment is quick and painless, but side effects like skin reactions and tiredness are common. You’ll usually get several small doses over the course of a few weeks. Doctors often use radiation when your cancer doesn’t respond to chemotherapy.

Swipe to advance
photo of car t cell therapy
9 / 13

CAR T-Cell Therapy

This type of immunotherapy uses your body’s cells. Your doctor will draw blood to collect T Cells, immune cells that fight infections. In a lab, they’ll change the cells so they make “chimeric antigen receptors” (CAR) on their surface. Then your doctor will put them back into your body, where they fight your lymphoma. Doctors often use this therapy if your cancer comes back after treatment or doesn’t respond to chemo or immunotherapy.

Swipe to advance
photo of capsule in hand
10 / 13

Targeted Therapy

If your cancer comes back or doesn’t respond to chemo or immunotherapy, you may get targeted therapy. It uses drugs that stop or slow tumor growth by acting on specific molecules in cancer cells. This is different from chemotherapy, which kills any quickly dividing cell, whether it’s normal or cancerous. Targeted therapy drugs often come in pills.

Swipe to advance
photo of stem cell transplant
11 / 13

Stem Cell Transplant

Your bone marrow, the spongy material inside your bones, contains immature cells called stem cells that grow into blood cells. They can replace cells that chemotherapy kills. This lets your doctor use stronger chemotherapy than they would if stem cells weren’t available. Stem cell transplants and high-dose chemotherapy can tax your body. Your doctor will usually only suggest them if your lymphoma is aggressive or returns after treatment.

Swipe to advance
photo of calendar pages
12 / 13

Watch and Wait

A small number of people with mantle cell lymphoma have what’s called slow-growing (indolent) MCL. If this is the type that you have, your doctor may suggest that you don’t jump into treatment. This lets you avoid the side effects. Instead, they’ll have you visit every 2-3 months and have an imaging test every 3-6 months. You’ll only need treatment if your cancer spreads or your symptoms get worse.

Swipe to advance
photo of mature couple drinking coffee
13 / 13


Most people respond well to their first round of chemotherapy. Often, they go an average of 20 months without their cancer getting worse. If you have mantle cell lymphoma, you can expect to live about 8 to 10 years, but you can live for 20 or more.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/09/2020 Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 09, 2020


1) (Left to right)  SomkiatFakmee / Getty Images,  Gabriel_Caponetti / Wikipedia

2) (Clockwise from top left)  BrianAJackson / Thinkstock, fakezzz / Thinkstock, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Science Source, Martyn F. Chillmaid / Science Source

3) IPGGutenbergUKLtd / Getty Images

4) Nerthuz / Getty Images

5) Fuse / Getty Images

6) Pratchaya / Thinkstock

7) bdspn / Thinkstock

8) BSIP / AMELIE-BENOIST / Medical Images

9) BSIP / JACOPIN / Medical Images

10) Photo Researchers / Science Source

11) Jose Oto / Science Source

12) grublee / Thinkstock

13) Jevtic / Getty Images



Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: "Mantle Cell Lymphoma Facts."

NIH Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center: "Mantle cell lymphoma."

Stanford Medicine Surgical Pathology Criteria: "Mantle Cell Lymphoma."

Lymphoma Research Foundation: "Treatment Options," "Stem Cell Transplantation," "Chemotherapy," "Radiation Therapy," "Immunotherapy," "CAR T-Cell Therapy," "Oral Agents in Lymphoma."

National Cancer Institute: "Blood-Forming Stem Cell Transplants."

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 09, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

From WebMD

More on Mantle Cell Lymphoma