Recently, Jane Fonda, 84 — who’s been an actress for seven decades — announced that she was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It worried a lot of fans, but the Grace & Frankie star assured everyone that she feels “stronger” than she ever has “in years.”
Here’s everything you should know about her diagnosis.
What Is B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is “a type of cancer that begins in your lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s germ-fighting immune system,” per Mayo Clinic. Fonda’s B-cell lymphoma is one of the most common subtypes of this disease. It’s when non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma arises from B cells that fight infection by creating antibodies “to neutralize foreign invaders.”
The disease also involves cancerous lymphocytes in your lymph nodes and can extend to other parts of your lymphatic system — the lymphatic vessels, tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. Sometimes, it could also affect organs outside the lymphatic system.
There are no known causes for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And the ones that are considered to be at risk don’t always develop the disease. Here are these factors to watch out for: medications that control your immune system, certain viruses and bacteria like HIV, certain chemicals like insect or weed killers, and older age. People aged 60 or over are more prone to acquiring this disease.
How Is Jane Fonda Handling Her Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis?
On September 6, 2022, days after announcing her diagnosis, Fonda gave fans an update on her health, saying that she was doing well. “Many have asked how I am feeling,” she wrote on her blog. “Well today, about 3 weeks from my first chemo session, I must tell you that I feel stronger than I have in years. The doctor told me the best antidote to the tiredness that chemotherapy can cause is to move. Walk. And I have been walking. Very early before the record heat kicks in. Also working out.”
Fonda noted that she’s successfully fought cancer before. “This is not my first encounter with cancer. I’ve had breast cancers and had a mastectomy and come through very well and I will do so again,” she said. She also acknowledged her privileged access to quality treatment. “As I said in my statement last week, I am painfully aware that the top-drawer treatment I receive is not something everyone in this country can count on and I consider that a travesty. It isn’t fair, and I will continue to fight for quality health care for all.”
As a longtime activist, Fonda even used her health update to raise awareness on the harmful effects of fossil fuels. “This diagnosis has only made me more determined than ever to continue to end the deadly effects of fossil fuels,” she said. “While most of us know that fossil fuels are the primary cause of the climate crisis, many may not know that fossil fuel emissions also cause cancer as well as other major health problems like birth defects, childhood leukemia, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease and preterm birth,” adding: “This cancer will not deter me.”
Is Jane Fonda’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatable?
At the beginning of her blog post, Fonda assured fans that her cancer can be treated. “I want to say again that this is a very treatable cancer and much progress has been made with the medicines patients are given,” she wrote. “Since last week, so many people have written to me or posted that they have had this type of cancer and have been cancer-free for many decades. Well, I’ll soon be 85 so I won’t have to worry about ‘many decades.’ One will do just fine.”
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “The outlook for an individual with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will depend on several factors,” said director of UK-Based Lymphoma Action, Dallas Pounds told Healthline. “But many people will respond well to treatment and enter a time of remission or stability after it.” He also explained: “Every person diagnosed with lymphoma will have an individual treatment plan depending on them as an individual and their presenting symptoms.”
Consultant hematologist, Dr. Dima El-Sharkawi added that high-grade lymphomas “are potentially curable with chemotherapy because [they] are more rapidly dividing, they’re more susceptible to the chemo, which essentially targets the ability of those cells to divide and proliferate.” However, low-grade lymphomas are treatable but not curable by available therapies these days.