Although Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma sound similar, there are distinct differences between the two cancers. Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system. It is caused by an attack on the white blood cells, or lymphocytes. The difference between Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the affected lymphocyte.
Hodgkin Lymphoma is the less common form. Often diagnosed in early stages, Hodgkin Lymphoma is one of the most treatable cancers. It is identified by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, so named for the researchers who provided the first microscopic descriptions, Dorothy Reed Mendenhall and Carl Sternberg. Their work led to a better understanding of what has been called the “popcorn cell,” a cell variant in on strain of Hodgkin lymphoma.
NHL affects adults more frequently than children. It usually starts in lymph nodes or other tissues in the lymphatic system. The lymph system has two functions: fighting infections or diseases and controlling fluid movement in the body. Both functions are vital for life.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is the most common form, but it is not usually diagnosed until it enters late stages, making it more difficult to treat. Treatments of NHL depend on the type, which depends on the affected lymphocyte (B cells or T cells). Other factors in determining the type are chromosome features, the presence of certain surface proteins, and the cells appearance when viewed under a microscope.
What Causes Lymphoma?
The lymphatic system is spread throughout the body, so lymph cancer (Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma) can start virtually anywhere. Some of the locations where lymph tissues are located include:
- Lymph nodes, which are small groups of lymphocytes and immune cells.
- Lymph vessels, which are similar to blood vessels except they contain lymph, a clear fluid that transports immune cells within the system.
- Spleen, which is an organ which makes lymphocytes and other cells
- Bone Marrow, a spongy tissue within bones where new blood cells are formed
- Thymus, a small organ which aids in T cell (lymphocyte) development
- Adenoids/tonsils which produce antibodies
- Digestive system, which includes intestines, stomach, and other organs
The exact cause of this form of cancer is caused by genetic changes in the lymphocytes; this causes abnormal growth and replication. Although the exact causes for these genetic changes are not known, researchers have identified several risk factors including age, gender, family history, infections, previous cancers, and family history among others.
What are the symptoms of lymph node cancer?
Symptoms common to both forms of lymphatic cancer are similar. Both Hodgkin and NHL symptoms include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- weight loss
Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnosis
How is Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosed? Many lymphomas are noticed during a physical exam. When the physician notices swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin, they will then order basic tests. These may include blood testing, perhaps a bone marrow test, a biopsy of a lymph node, and/or imaging tests like a CT scan, MRI, or Pet Scan. The tests chosen are determined by the presence of symptoms and the location of the swollen nodes.
At Kymera Independent Physicians, we have 22 years’ experience and an entire team of oncologists who work closely with our primary care physicians to ensure accurate, timely diagnoses. We know that the sooner a cancer like Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is identified and classified, the sooner our patient can begin treatments. And the sooner we can begin treating the lymphoma, the better the outcome.
If you have noticed unusual swelling under your arms, perhaps felt a lump in your groin, neck, or any other part of your body, request an appointment today at any of our convenient SENM locations.