CNS lymphoma

A lymphoma is a tumour caused by the uncontrolled growth of the lymph cells (a type of white blood cell). Lymph cells help the body fight infection. There are many different types of lymphoma - usually they form in the lymph nodes around the body.

Rarely, a lymphoma can form in other places, such as the central nervous system (CNS) - either as a mass that presses on the brain or spinal cord from outside or, less commonly, as a mass or spread within the meninges (the membranes covering the brain). These lymphomas are called a primary cerebral lymphoma or a primary CNS lymphoma.

CNS lymphomas represent just under 5% of brain and spinal cord tumours.

CNS lymphoma grade

CNS lymphomas are usually high grade and are a type of 'non-Hodgkin lymphoma' called 'diffuse large B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma'. (Hodgkin lymphoma is a different illness entirely).

It is important for your doctors to tell you which type of lymphoma you have.

Diagnosing brain tumours

Read about the methods used to diagnose brain tumours including scans, biopsies, biomarker testing and laboratory analysis.

How brain tumours are graded

Brain tumours are graded from 1 to 4 depending on how they are likely to behave. Find out more.

Scans for adults

Get details about MRI and CT scans, which can provide a detailed 3-D image of the brain.


CNS lymphomas are treated differently to other brain tumours in that the main treatment is usually chemotherapy. Some people may also have radiotherapy after the chemotherapy.


Find our how chemotherapy drugs destroy tumour cells by disturbing their growth.


Find out how radiotherapy destroys tumour cells whilst causing as little damage as possible to surrounding cells.

Page last reviewed: 11/2015
Next review due: 11/2018

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