Hodgkin's vs. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: What's the Difference?

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Hodgkin’s & Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: What’s the Difference?

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When discussing the complex disease known as cancer, it is surprisingly easy to follow along as to its primarily affected location. Most cancers are referred to by where the tumor is initially situated. Breast cancer, liver cancer, and testicular cancer are just a few of the straightforward examples. There are, however, some more obscure names used to identify other cancers. Lymphoma is a perfect example.

In conjunction with September’s designation as Lymphoma Awareness Month, we’ll today examine the disease in further depth.

Whether hearing ‘lymphoma’ for the first (or even tenth) time, it doesn’t paint an automatic picture of where the cancer is in the body. When making the connection between the lymphatic system and lymphoma, the mental image only becomes somewhat clearer. With further investigation, one will find that lymphoma is a cancer that impacts certain cells in the immune system. A normal lymphatic system carries a colorless fluid called lymph via tubes and lymph nodes. Lymph is transported to many parts of the body, such as the spleen, tonsils, thymus, and bone marrow. Various kinds of white blood cells are found within lymph and help fight disease within the body. Though, even with this understanding, lymphoma throws another wrench into the gears. Lymphoma diagnoses are then broken down into two types: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s.

What is the difference between Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

Medical professionals are able to distinguish non-Hodgkin’s from Hodgkin’s lymphoma (formerly referred to as Hodgkin’s disease) by examining the white blood cells affected by the disease. If the doctor does not detect what is known as a Reed-Sternberg cell, the lymphoma is classified as non-Hodgkin’s. If there are Reed-Sternberg cells present, it is classified as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Reed-Sternberg cells are giant cells found in lymph fluid. They are relatively easy to identify under the microscope due to the fact that they are so large and often contain more than one nucleus.

Which type of lymphoma is more common?

Both forms of lymphoma are relatively rare. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is considered the more common type of lymphoma. There are an estimated 70,000 new cases per year in the United States. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, however, is even more rare than non-Hodgkin’s. It is estimated that there are only 8,000 new cases each year nationwide.

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Who is affected by Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

The average age for people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 60-years-old. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, however, is most common in people aged 15- to 24-years-old as well as people over the age of 60. The most common symptom is swelling of the lymph nodes in the abdomen, groin, neck, or underarm. Other symptoms may include an enlarged spleen or liver, fever, weight loss, sweating and chills, and fatigue.

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Do the different types of lymphoma impact different parts of the body?

While both non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma effect the lymphatic system, they often impact different parts of the system. Hodgkin’s lymphoma typically occurs in the lymph nodes found in the neck, chest, or underarms. From there, it often progresses in a predictable fashion moving from one group of lymph nodes to the next. Progressing in such an orderly fashion allows the cancer to be detected and treated at an early stage. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is recognized as one of the most treatable cancers, with over 90% of patients surviving more than five years. Non-Hodgkin’s, however, often arises in various parts of the body. It can surface in similar lymph nodes as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or even in the groin and abdomen. Because of this, most cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is diagnosed at an advanced stage.

While lymphoma is often categorized into Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s, there are even more sub categories following those. Hodgkin’s lymphoma can further be broken down into classical and nodular lymphocyte-predominant. As for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there are over 60 subtypes within that diagnosis. While recognizing each varying form of lymphoma is a feat in itself, knowing the difference between the two types will provide a strong understanding of this particular blood cancer.

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Comments(15)

  1. REPLY
    cat hat says

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  2. REPLY
    cat hat says

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    • REPLY
      claire denise hart says

      I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s histiocytic lymphoma at age 35,35 years ago.I noticed lumps in my left breast.My OBGYN could not draw liquid from the area and told me it was nothing to worry about.I had just returned from a wonderful family vacation with my Mom and my 5 year-old daughter.The growth on my left breast grew suddenly and was noticed during my shower but was not painful at all.Because my vacation replacement was still available(a medical student)I asked if he could replace me so I could have a surgeon remove the lumps.Very rare for a healthy 35y.old woman,it was a NonHodgkins lymphoma,progressing very fast!It was removed and I had a 6 month weekly chemo.tx(Emory University,Atlanta,Ga).I am sharing this because a smart physician had missed my cancer but a quick second opinion saved my life!Good luck and blessings to every potential cancer patient.Claire D.Hart PS:Thank for your excellent and caring site !!!

      • REPLY
        Frank says

        Dear Claire Denise Hart; you are a beautiful person to share this amazing story to educate everyone, God Bless You and stay healthy!!!!

  3. REPLY
    cat hat says

    Regards for this marvelous post, I am glad I found this site on yahoo.

  4. REPLY
    i thought about this says

    Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  5. REPLY
    ismene says

    under the question: Do the different types of lymphoma impact different parts of the body? Do you mean to say “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma…” instead of “Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma typically occurs in the lymph nodes found in the neck, chest, or underarms.” I’m reading conflicting information. Thank you.

  6. REPLY
    NICHOLAS VALLAS says

    I was trying to help a friend with the difference between the lymphomas and was able to get that answer here. Thank you.
    Also read somewhere that the treatment for hodgkin’s is chemo. I was diagnosed when I was 27 and treated with radiation. I am now 69

    • REPLY
      Evelyn Martinez says

      Wow how blessed!

  7. REPLY
    ANIRBAN GHOSH says

    My mom has been suffering from dlbcl stage IVE since November 2020 has completed her 6th chemo cycle (more precisely R-CHOP) very recently. What is the chances of her survival?? She is being treated at TATA MEDICAL CENTER, Kolkata, India.

  8. REPLY
    Joyce Lacy says

    I was diagnosed with Hodgkins in 2008, had twelve chemo treatments (six months). The cocktail was ABVD but they stopped the B because it made me sick. I’m 83 years old. Feel great!

  9. REPLY
    Beverly says

    Hello. I’m a 59 year old female and had Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 15. I received huge doses of radiation from my jaw down my full torso. From receiving that radiation in later years it gave me Thyroid Cancer on both sides and was removed. I then got Breast Cancer which I received a mastectomy on my right side and they keep an eye on my left breast as I may get cancer in that one but easier to detect if the breast is still intact. I wanted it removed but they advised not to. I received a couple of doses of radiation again..but this time it was pinpointed to the exact spot. Drs don’t like to radiate a person 2x in the same area…so I was a tuff case. Then I had open heart surgery and had 2 valves replaced and a bypass. 2 years ago I had a cyst on my ovary which was very painful and I received a complete hysterectomy. I also had melanoma on my back at the age of 16.
    Well that’s my story! I live each and every day to the fullest as much as I can. Just thought I would tell my story. I’ve never typed it before now or have I ever wrote it down on paper.
    Cheers & Stay Safe! Beverly from New Brunswick Canada

  10. REPLY
    JR says

    My lymph nodes got swollen pre pandemic and I haven’t seen a doctor since. I think it’s lymphoma. I don’t even have a PCP. I dislike going to the doctors and hospitals because of some early cancer experiences I had with my sister and grandparents. I’m still trying to muster the courage to go and get my health condition checked. I’m scared but at the same time it’s not my personality to dwell in the unknown. There are so many thoughts going on my mind everyday and it’s crazy how I’m trying to live business as usual but I know that I’m not. I’m not okay. I’m not okay. The first step is always the hardest they say. I need to see a doctor and face my demons for what it’s worth.

  11. REPLY
    Dee says

    JR,
    Please go see a doctor right away!! My father and uncle passed away from different types of cancer. My father didn’t like to see doctors, and my uncle put off seeing his doctor about his condition because he didn’t think it was a big deal. When my uncle finally went to see the doctor, his colon cancer had reached Stage 4 and he was diagnosed with only a few weeks to live. He died 3 weeks after he got his diagnosis. My father’s cancer also reached past Stage 2 and metastasized. If he had gone to the doctor sooner, he would have a better chance of treating and beating the cancer. If both my father and uncle had gone to the doctor sooner rather than later, the outcome of their cancer could have turned out differently, and they may even be alive today. So I implore you to get past your demons & go to see a doctor. If you don’t like the 1st doctor you see then go find a doctor who you do like. Not all doctors are same and some doctors can be great, but please just see a doctor ASAP!!! Your swollen nodes could turn out to be cancer or it could not. Either way, you need to find out what is causing your nodes to swell. If it is cancer then getting diagnosed and treatment ASAP is paramount. Your life may depend on it! Good luck and I will pray and hope you will get a non-cancer diagnosis!

    • REPLY
      James says

      I agree. I was diagnosed early enough that chemo over a period of 6 months followed by a month of radiation cured me of Hodgkins Lymphoma. No matter why stay positive and fight, fight, fight!!!

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