What Does It Mean? Basic Canine Lymphoma Vocabulary You May Not Know

Last updated:
February 17, 2022
Close up of lovely little dog looking the laptop while her young owner working with him in living room at home.

Understanding the terminologies used in cancer spaces is hard. Add the stress of having a pet with a diagnosis and anyone is bound to have some questions. We’ve compiled a list for you of commonly used terminologies that you may want a refresher, just to make sure you’re following what the doctor says.

The basic key terms for understanding canine lymphoma


The smallest portion of an organism. There are many different kinds of cells and each has a different job to do in the body of the organism, but all of them together make up an organism—in this case, your dog.


Cancer is a disease that affects the cells of the body. A disease is diagnosed as cancer when there is an uncontrolled division of cells that are abnormal. The progression of cancer depends on the rate that the cells divide.


This is a growth that mimics swelling on the body, though it is not caused by inflammation like normal swelling. It can be caused by an abnormal growth of cells in the tissue. This doesn’t have to mean that there is cancer in that portion of the body, but it is always important to make sure.

Lymphoma (lymphosarcoma)

This is a cancer of cells in the lymph nodes. Those cells work with the body’s immune system so the cancerous cells are more likely to spread throughout the body. This is a treatable but incurable cancer in canines, and dogs diagnosed with lymphoma are able to live happy lives after treatment.

Lymph nodes

This is a stop on the immune system’s track. It is a small spot on or in the body that houses white blood cells that are used to combat threats to the body, like a cold.


This is a specific type of white blood cell that interacts with the lymph nodes. Lymphocytes are the cells that are often affected by cancer when a dog has lymphoma


Consider this the verb form of a tumor. When abnormal cells are growing in the body the growth is called a neoplasm. The result of the growth is a tumor which is the mass of cells.


This is the unfortunate event that means cancer cells are spreading through the body. They have moved from the initial location of the development of the cells to different parts of the body. Because lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system, it is very common to see this happen.


This is the goal of all lymphoma treatments. Because lymphoma is a cancer that can’t be cured, a remission is the best result. This is when a cancer patient no longer has symptoms of the cell mutation. In your dog’s case, they would live as if they never had cancer in the first place.


This is the unfortunate case when a dog that has achieved remission begins to have symptoms of their lymphoma again. It’s a part of the territory when dealing with a disease that is not currently curable like lymphoma.


This is what it’s called when you have clear information on what is affecting your pet. The diagnosis is what a vet identifies to be wrong, and based on that information the vet is able to make a plan for treatment to get your pet back in great shape.

Veterinary Oncologist

This is a vet that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers in animals. They are going to be one of your most frequented vets during your pet’s treatment for their lymphoma and will likely be the ones administering many of the chemotherapy drugs.


This is the expected outcome of a disease or sickness. This can change depending on treatment decisions and responses to drugs. ImpriMed’s Drug Sensitivity Test is able to create clear expectations of what the prognosis of each specific treatment may look like.


This is a description used to talk about diseases that affect multiple areas of the body, rather than a localized sickness. An example of a localized ailment could be a cut or a tumor, whereas systemic illnesses affect the whole body like a blood issue or lymphoma.

To learn more about the basics of lymphoma check out our post on the fundamentals of canine lymphoma.

Different labels for canine lymphoma


Multicentric means that the cancer is located in many different areas.This is the most common type of lymphoma and is the most studied, seeing as it accounts for a vast majority of lymphoma cases and usually has great results from treatment as a result.

Alimentary (Gastrointestinal)

As you would expect, this form of lymphoma affects the stomach and digestive system. It accounts for a very small percentage of cases and commonly contains a T-cell variant that can make it slightly harder to treat.


This kind of lymphoma affects the cardiothoracic region, usually causing breathing problems. Because of this it can be fatal very quickly and should be treated as swiftly as possible. This form can be found in combination with other forms of lymphoma as well as by itself.

Extranodal (cutaneous)

This is the rarest form of lymphoma. It is a lymphoma that exists outside of the common lymph node areas and can affect bone marrow, liver, skin, eyes, and more.


This is a specific type of lymphocyte cell. They work as part of the immune system by producing antibody molecules. These cells create adaptive antibodies that allow the white blood cells to respond to specific threats in the body. When affected by lymphoma these cells don’t produce antibodies against infection and can cause a lot of damage to the immune system and the overall health of your pet.


This is also a specific type of lymphocyte cell. These work differently than B-cells. They act as more of an attacker on threats to the body. They attack antigens and foreign particles in the system which is a major factor in being able to fight off infection. When these cells are affected by lymphoma they may end up attacking healthy cells.


This is a specific classification of T-cell lymphoma. It is a lower grade lymphoma and is typically associated with older dogs; it has a really high average survival rate and a long remission rate.

Small-cell lymphoma

This is a specific classification of a type of lymphoma. It identifies if the cells are small cells rather than large. A small-cell diagnosis is usually easier to treat than large-cell and has a better opportunity for remission.

Large-cell lymphoma

The opposite of small-cell, large-cell lymphoma is typically very fast in development and can have a shorter remission time, but with proper treatment, your pet should be able to pull through and enjoy their remission

Stage (cancer stage)

Stages are a way of determining the progression of cancer in a patient. They range from 1-5; stage I is a very localized single affected lymph node and gradually increases in severity until stage V, when blood and bone marrow have become involved. The stage of lymphoma that your pet is in will directly relate to how effective their treatment and how long their remission will be.


When receiving a diagnosis of a tumor, this is what you hope for. When cancer cells are benign it means that they are localized and not going to cause issues or spread in the body in a harmful way.


Opposing benign, malignant means that a disease is active and infectious. In cancer terms, this means that the cells are spreading and actively working against the natural, healthy systems in the body.

To learn more about the different types of lymphoma you can read more on our blog post, which covers each type in more depth.

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