Pass it On: It’s Leukemia and Lymphoma National Awareness Month

Pass it On: It’s Leukemia and Lymphoma National Awareness Month

Leukemia and lymphoma are both hematologic malignancies, meaning that they involve the blood or bone marrow. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there will be 60,140 new cases of leukemia and 24,400 deaths in 2016. For lymphoma, the ACS estimates that 81,080 new cases and 21,270 deaths will occur in the United States in 2016.

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. These types of lymphomas differ in how they behave, spread, and respond to treatment, so it is important to tell them apart.

Hodgkin disease (Hodgkin lymphoma or HL) starts in the white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system. The lymph system helps to fight infections or disease, and helps move fluid in the body, and is mainly composed of lymphoid tissue, fluid, and lymph vessels which carry the fluid between lymph nodes. The lymphoid tissue is mostly made up of lymphocytes (where this cancer originates) which consist of two types: B lymphocytes (B cells) and T lymphocytes (T cells). Normal B cells and T cells have different jobs. Because lymphoid tissue is in many parts of the body, Hodgkin disease can start almost anywhere, and usually spreads from lymph node to lymph node via the lymph vessels. Most often it starts in lymph nodes in the upper part of the body; in the chest, in the neck, or under the arms.

There are different types of Hodgkin disease and further subgroups under those, and each is classified by how the cells look under the microscope.

Non-Hodgkin disease (NHL) is the same in that it originates in the lymphocytes and has many types and sub-groups under its umbrella. Also, both lymphomas are marked by a painless swelling of the lymph nodes. However non-Hodgkin lymphoma can arise in lymph nodes throughout the body and can also arise in normal organs. Patients with either type can have symptoms such as weight loss, fevers, and night sweats, but non-Hodgkin’s is more common and has many more distinct types than Hodgkin.

Another difference is in the manner of progression; Hodgkin lymphoma is often diagnosed before it reaches an advanced stage and moves in a more systematic fashion from lymph node to lymph node, while patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are usually diagnosed at a more advanced stage of the disease.

But the main difference between non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin is if the malignancies begin in the T cells or B Cells, and in which other organ they can arise in other than the lymph nodes.

Leukemia starts in a cell during of the production of blood cells in the bone marrow. During production, a certain cell—whether it be a white blood cell, red blood cell, or platelet—undergoes a change, and this new, malignant cell may be able to produce better than normal cells. Eventually these malignant cells stifle the development of normal cells resulting in deficiencies of normal cell production and body functions.

There are many types of leukemia and each type usually falls into either an acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing) disease, with each type having different outlooks and treatment options. The four main types of leukemia according to cell type and rate of growth are acute lymphocytic (ALL), chronic lymphocytic (CLL), acute myeloid (AML), and chronic myeloid (CML). Overall, leukemia incidence has increased slowly for many decades at 1.3% per year.


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