Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Leukemia?

Leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are both forms of blood cancer, but they are different as leukemia generally affects the blood and bone marrow whereas non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affects the lymph nodes. Although, there are some similarities between the two types of cancer, their causes, origin, symptoms, treatment and survival rate are different.

Leukemia will occur when the bone marrow produces excess of abnormal white blood cells and is typically a slow growing disease so that symptoms are not noticeable right away. Over time the effects of having excess of white blood cells along with decrease in number of red blood cells are seen. Leukemia can be of two types, acute leukemia and chronic leukemia. Acute leukemia spreads faster than chronic leukemia since chronic leukemia grows slowly in the beginning stages. 4 prominent kinds of leukemia have been identified, being leukemia acute myeloid, chronic myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Lymphoma specifically affects the lymph nodes, which is based mostly on the origin of cancer cells. Some types of lymphomas may also arise in the lymphatic system, while others begin in the white blood cells. Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma generally occurs when the B-cells or T-cells that are present within the wbc/white blood cells undergo malignant change. They travel to different parts of the body via blood normally to the lymphoid tissues. It leads to enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Differences In Incidence Between Leukemia And Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Overall more people are affected by lymphomas than leukemia. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affects people twice more than leukemia. Although most of the cancers found in children before the age of 15 years mostly comprises of the leukemia, while lymphomas only comprise 10% of the childhood cancers. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are more common in people over the age of 55 years. Both these cancers are found to be more common in men than women. non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma also has a high survival rate than leukemia. The death rate of leukemia is more than non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Symptoms of leukemia are slow to manifest and they include enlarged lymph nodes, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, chronic fatigue, fever, bleeding from nose and gums, weakness (feeling dizzy or light headed most of the times), tendency to have chronic infections that does not heal, easily bruised skin, loss of appetite, swelling in the abdomen, sudden weight loss that cannot be explained, bone pain or tenderness, rusty spots on the skin and excessive sweating especially at night.

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include enlarged lymph nodes, abdominal swelling, feeling of fullness even after taking small meals, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, pain in the chest, sudden weight loss with sweats and chills.

The risk factors of leukemia also differ from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chronic leukemia is commonly found in adults. By contrast acute leukemia is commonly found in children, making it the most common cancer found in children. The risk factors for leukemia include genetic disorders, family history of the disease, and exposure to certain types of chemicals, history of exposure to radiation or chemotherapy and smoking.

Lymphoma can mostly occur at any age but mostly affects adults beyond the age group of 55 years. The risk factors of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include a weakened immune system, exposure to some chemicals, chronic helicobacter pylori infection, previous radiation or chemotherapy and certain auto immune diseases.

Diagnosis

Both non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia diseases require a detailed history of the patient along with a physical examination. For the diagnosis of leukemia, doctor will do a blood test to look for abnormal counts of white blood cells. Sometimes a bone marrow biopsy is also required. In some cases chromosome testing, X-rays or CT scans can also be done. In case a lymphoma is suspected a biopsy from the affected tissue can be taken under general anesthesia along with other imaging and blood tests.

Treatment

Leukemia is treated with chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, targeted therapy, biological therapy and radiation therapy.

The treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy, drugs that prevent further growth of abnormal cells, immunotherapy and high dose chemotherapy along with stem cell transplant and surgery in very cases.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: November 16, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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