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What is the difference between leukemia and lymphoma?

What are leukaemia and lymphoma?

Leukaemia and lymphoma are cancers of the blood and immune system, respectively. Both are known to influence white blood cells.


Leukaemia is a malignancy of the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. It mainly affects white blood cells from a trusted source, although it can also impact other blood cells in certain situations.

Image Credits: Cleveland Clinic Org

Leukaemia is classified into distinct categories based on how quickly it develops and the sort of cells it begins in.

The following are examples of leukaemia types:

  • acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML)

Chronic leukaemia develops more slowly, while acute cancers start suddenly and develop rapidly. Leukaemia can affect children and adults, depending on the type.


Lymphoma is a kind of cancer that develops in the immune system and spreads to the lymph nodes and lymphocytes, which are white blood cells. B cells and T cells are the two primary kinds of lymphocytes.

The two most common forms :

Lymphoma has two types: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They have an impact on several types of white blood cells.

If a person has Hodgkin lymphoma, Reed-Sternberg cells will be apparent under a microscope. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients do not have these cells in their blood.

The most frequent kind of lymphoma is non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma usually occurs in young adults, but the risk increases again after the age of 55Trusted Source. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is common cancer in children, teens, and young adults, but over half of all cases are in people aged over 65Trusted Source.


The symptoms of leukaemia and lymphoma are different and also vary according to the type.

Also check out: Causes Of Leukemia and Prevention

Chronic leukaemia

This type develops slowly. People often find out they have it before symptoms appear, for example, during a routine blood test.

Possible symptoms include:

swelling of the spleen, liver, and lymph nodes

bleeding and bruising

other symptoms, depending on the type

Acute leukaemia

Symptoms tend to be non-specific, which means they are common to a range of conditions.

They include:

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • bleeding and bruising
  • swollen liver, spleen, and lymph nodes
  • bone pain, especially in the spine and long bones
  • muscle pain
  • anemia
  • shortness of breath
  • heavy bleeding during menstruation

Also check out: Leukaemia: Causes and Symptoms

Hodgkin lymphoma

Around 25%Trusted Source of people with Hodgkin lymphoma experience the following early signs:

  • fever
  • night sweats
  • weight loss

After this, other symptoms may appear, including:

  • swollen lymph nodes, starting in the area where cancer begins
  • skin rash
  • pain in the areas of the affected lymph nodes after consuming alcohol
  • diseases of the diaphragm (breathing difficulty, pain in the chest, shoulder, or abdominal area, and lack of oxygen in the blood)
  • problems with the bones, bone marrow, lungs, and liver as cancer spreads
  • in rare cases, it can affect the brain and nervous system
  • Lymph nodes are all connected to each other. Hodgkin’s lymphoma spreads from one lymph node to the next.

Also check out: How to prevent cancer? 10 ways to reduce risks of Cancer

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a kind of cancer that affects the lymphatic system

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by enlarged lymph nodes. The scope of the disease will vary depending on the stage, but it tends to extend out from the diaphragm, a muscle located just below the ribs that expand and contract when a person breathes. Among the signs and symptoms are:

  • lymph nodes swollen
  • As the illness advances, symptoms in the lungs, liver, kidney, and bone marrow appear, as do symptoms in the digestive system, thyroid, bones, brain, testes, kidney, liver, breast, and skin in certain cases.

Causes and effects on the body

Cancers of the blood cells, such as leukaemia and lymphoma, are cancers. Distinct varieties have different effects on the body. They do, however, share some characteristics.

Leukaemia is a disease in which cancer develops in the bone marrow, leading it to create an excess of white blood cells. The cells continue to divide until they outweigh healthy blood cells. It mostly affects white blood cells, which are important components of the immune system.

Cancer occurs in the lymphatic system, which is a component of the immune system, in lymphoma. B cells and T cells, which are white blood cells, begin to proliferate excessively fast. They eventually outweigh the healthy cells, preventing the immune system from functioning properly. Tumours can develop as they collect.

Eventually, cancer can also spread to the bone marrow, lungs, or liver. These are the most common destinations, but they can also affect other parts of the body.

Risk factors

Leukaemia and lymphoma have different risk factors.


Factors that may increase the risk of developing leukaemia depend on the type of leukaemia. However, they may include:

  • exposure to radiation
  • exposure to benzene
  • past treatment with chemotherapy
  • a history of blood cancer
  • viral infections, such as the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), which may increase the risk of AML
  • some genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome and Fanconi anaemia, which may increase the risk of ALL and AML


The risk factors also vary for different types of lymphoma.

However, there are some overall risk factors, which include:

  • exposure to toxins, such as pesticides or herbicides
  • persistent infection with EBV or cytomegalovirus
  • some bacterial infections, such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
  • a weakened immune system, for example, due to HIV
  • the use of drugs that impact the immune system
  • auto-immune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome


A doctor will most likely: If a person exhibits symptoms that might indicate leukaemia or lymphoma, he or she will:

  • enquire further about the symptoms
  • Inquire about your own and your family’s medical history, and get medical testing performed.

The following tests may be performed:

  • Lymphoma and leukaemia blood tests
  • If your doctor suspects leukaemia, you’ll need a bone marrow biopsy.
  • a tissue biopsy if lymphoma is suspected
  • Other tests may be performed by the doctor to rule out other probable reasons.

White blood cells and the immune system are both affected by leukaemia and lymphoma cancers. They do, however, influence the body in different ways.

Chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and targeted therapy can all help control and, in some circumstances, cure these illnesses. However, depending on the type of cancer a person has, the treatment technique and prognosis will differ.

As scientists learn more and create novel ways to treat cancer, survival rates are steadily improving.

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