Understanding R/R Follicular Lymphoma

Relapsed/refractory (r/r) follicular lymphoma (FL)

What is r/r FL?

Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that develops from B cells and is usually slow growing.


The immune system is made up of different cells and organs that work together to protect the body from diseases. For example, there are B cells, T cells, and glands called lymph nodes. Sometimes the cells inside a lymph node can grow abnormally and become cancerous.


When the cancer is in remission, it means the signs and symptoms of cancer have decreased or disappeared. It does not mean the cancer is cured. The cancer is considered to have relapsed when it comes back after a period of remission and is considered refractory when it does not respond to treatment.

A human T cell (also called a T lymphocyte)
A human B cell (also called a B lymphocyte)
A B cell lymphoma

T cells

T cells are a key part of the immune system that can find and destroy cells that are infected or that have become cancerous.

B cells

B cells are also a key component of the immune system. They make special proteins called antibodies, which attach to the surface of foreign invaders, alerting the body to the presence of intruders. Some B cells can then remember the intruders so if they see them again in the future, they can respond more quickly.

Cancerous cells

Healthy B cells can sometimes change and develop into a cancer, including FL. These abnormal B cells continue to grow and increase in number, which can affect the body in different ways.

Signs and symptoms of relapsed or refractory FL

The signs and symptoms of r/r FL are usually similar to those that occur upon first diagnosis, such as:

  • Swelling in the neck, underarms, or groin
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Night sweats and chills
  • Weight loss

How common is relapsed or refractory FL?

Around 1 in 5 of people with FL will experience relapse within 2 years after initial treatment. With aging, the possibility of relapse often increases. Older patients may also have a higher risk of refractory disease.

How to talk about having cancer with loved ones

Telling your friends and family about your cancer can help them support you – not just at the time of diagnosis, but throughout your treatment journey. The first conversation you have may be difficult, so tell them in the way that feels best for you – it could be face to face, over the phone, or by email.

Visit the Patient Support section for further support

Graphic illustrating a patient with her caregivers
Caring for a loved one with FL

Finding out your loved one’s cancer has returned or hasn’t responded to treatment can be hard on everyone’s mental and emotional well-being. Family and friends play an important role in their treatment experience. Visit the Patient Support section for more information on how best to support your loved one during this time.