Leukemia and lymphoma are cancers.
What are Leukemia and Lymphoma?
Lymphoma and leukemia are blood cancers. They have some similar symptoms, but they are very different with regard to their other symptoms, origins, and treatments. Problems with the white blood cells are present in both disorders, but in leukemia, there are too many white blood cells produced by the bone marrow, where they eventually take over the red blood cells. This interferes with nutrient and oxygen transport. Leukemia can also originate in the lymph nodes. Lymphoma typically does start in the lymph nodes (which fight infection), but abnormal white blood cells can spread to other parts of the body. Leukemia types are acute or chronic (and either myeloid or lymphoblastic). The chronic types are more common. Symptoms appear slowly over time and include bruising, bleeding, fatigue, fevers, headaches, and body infections. Lymphoma “specifically affects the lymph nodes”. These cancers, which are a result of B-cells or T-cells becoming abnormal in the white blood cells, are also known as non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Hodgkin disease, by contrast, “originates with an enlarged lymph node”, which then “spreads to other lymph nodes, and…other organs”. It is more rare than non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The symptoms of Hodgkin disease include painless and swollen lymph nodes, itchy skin, appetite loss, and fever. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma may have the same symptoms, but also chest pain and breathing troubles, a painful and swollen abdomen, and fatigue. Fortunately, leukemia and lymphoma grow slowly.1 Lymphoma is actually “the most common blood cancer”.2 The basic different between leukemia and lymphoma is that all leukemias affect the blood and bone marrow (and can spread), while lymphomas mainly target the lymph nodes and organs, but could also affect the bone marrow. In fact, it is called leukemia “if more than 25% of the bone marrow is replaced by cancerous lymphocytes”, even though in some cases, at first, it can be hard to diagnose the cancer as lymphoma or leukemia. By contrast, larger lymph nodes will most likely point to a lymphoma diagnosis.3
Leukemia can be treated with radiation, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and “targeted therapy”. The idea behind these treatments is to try to “prevent abnormal cells from forming in the blood and lymph nodes”. It is easier to treat Hodgkin disease if it is contained in the lymph nodes, and radiation and chemotherapy are the most common treatments. For non-Hodgkin disease, the treatments are typically the same as for Hodgkin and leukemia, including targeted therapy. If caught early, Hodgkin disease is “curable”.4 For some patients, “observation without treatment” is appropriate. There are new treatments that are being investigated for lymphoma.5 Acute leukemia could progress quickly.6 The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) promotes the latest education on these diseases. They also fund research and provide services and information to patients.7