There are different types of leukemia, and it’s easy to mistake one for another. Just remember that all leukemias have one thing in common with regards to their pathophysiology—the production of white blood cells exceeds that of the red blood cells, which is not normal.
The type of leukemia will vary depending on the origin of the white blood cells. As a recap, there are five white blood cells: Monocytes, Lymphocytes, Neutrophils, Basophils, and Eosinophils. As for lymphoma, it’s the lymphocytes, more specifically the T-cells and B-Cells.
Now, here comes another confusing part. What’s the difference between Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? Let’s find out how they differ.
Anatomy and Physiology of the Lymph Nodes
Before we delve into what lymphoma does to our body and the difference between Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s, it makes sense to review the normal function of the lymph nodes.
There are lymph vessels and lymph nodes throughout the body that play a significant role in the immune system. It is responsible for collecting waste materials (e.g., bacteria and viruses) and fluids from the body tissues.
The lymph nodes are located throughout the body to filter harmful substances. It contains immune cells that fight toxic substances carried in the lymph fluid by destroying and attacking them. For example, when a person has a common cold or experiences ear infection, the lymph nodes proximal to the ear will be enlarged.
Think of them like police enforcement on a checkpoint, filtering out bad people, and not letting them through (of course, minus the violent destroying and attacking part). When lymph nodes become swollen, they get activated; and this is the defense mechanism of the body when there is any form of sickness.
What Happens at the Cellular Level?
Cells are produced in the blood stem, and it’s either the myeloid or lymphoid cell. It then turns into a lymphoblast cell and then produces the B-cells and T-cells. This is where lymphomas progress and come to life.
Differences Between Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
When it comes to the difference between these two, just take note of the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cells. The NON-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma does NOT have the Reed-Sternberg cells.
During the biopsy, when there is the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, the lymphoma is classified as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If otherwise, it is considered as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and more tests need to be done to confirm the diagnosis because there are 12 other variations.
To know more about the difference between Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, here are more details:
- Severity: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is more severe than Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
- More common: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Age affected by Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: The median age when patients are diagnosed is 39 years old.
- Age affected by Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: The median age when patients are diagnosed is 55 years old.
- Location of Lymph Nodes (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma): The presence of lymph nodes usually starts at the upper body (neck, armpits or chest)
- Location of Lymph Nodes (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma): The lymph nodes arise anywhere in the body.
- Prognosis (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma): It is one of the easily treated cancers because it’s usually diagnosed at an early stage.
- Prognosis (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma): It is usually diagnosed when it’s on the advanced stage.
Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma
Lymphoma is common among people who are aged 20 to 30 years old. The most common symptoms are prominent lymph nodes, tonsils getting swollen, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and pain in the spleen. In other cases, it may be asymptomatic or painless, that’s why it’s important to watch for other signs.
Here is a comprehensive list of the signs and symptoms of both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Take note of these symptoms and consult your physician immediately to confirm diagnosis.
- Lymph node formation in the chest, armpits or neck (common for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). It may be painless or asymptomatic.
- Pain in the chest, bones, or abdomen (manifested in Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma)
- Fever (unknown cause)
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Feeling of exhaustion
- Itchy skin
- Presenting symptoms depending on the tumor’s location. (e.g., breathing difficulties may be experienced for those who have lymph nodes in the chest area)
Just like any other cancer, once diagnosed, its stage must be determined. In the case of Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the stages are classified depending on the location and the number of lymph node formations throughout the body. The stages are as follows:
Stage 1: Only one large lymph node is found in the body.
Stage 2: One enlarged lymph node is found in the upper part of the body, especially above the diaphragm.
Stage 3: Three enlarged lymph nodes are detected throughout the body.
Stage 4: Four enlarged lymph nodes are detected throughout the body.
Predisposing Factors of Lymphomas
The cause of both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is unknown (meaning it’s idiopathic). Like any other form of cancer, the cause is unknown, and further research is still ongoing.
Health experts, however, suggest the predisposing factors that may lead to lymphoma are:
- Carcinogens: asbestos, tobacco smoking, air pollutants, deep-fried brown food, and metallic substances
- Genetics: A family history of any form of cancer
- Immunocompromised: People who have a weak immune system, autoimmune disorders (e.g., HIV)
Diagnostic Procedures of Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Once your physician detects a swollen lymph node anywhere in the body, further tests are conducted to diagnose if there is the presence of lymphoma. Usually, a biopsy is the first option; however, other procedures can be done, such as:
- PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography)
- CT Scan (Computed Tomography)
- Flow Cytometry
- Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration
Patients who are diagnosed with lymphoma are advised to either undergo Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy. However, it must be taken into account that Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more treatable as compared to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Just remember that Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cells and is more treatable. This is mainly how it differs from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The predisposing factors, diagnostic procedures, and management are almost the same.