What’s the Difference Between Leukemia and Lymphoma?

What’s the Difference Between Leukemia and Lymphoma?


Is leukemia and lymphoma the same? This is what we will consider in today’s article.

No part of the body is immune to cancer. Cancer can affect all aspects of the body, even the blood. Talking about the blood, two types of cancer can affect the blood – leukemia, and lymphoma. Studies have shown that in 2016, over 60,000 people were diagnosed with leukemia, while over 80,000 people were diagnosed with lymphoma.

Although both cancers share some symptoms, there are significant differences in their symptoms, origin, and treatment. This article will give detailed information about these two types of blood cancer.

Symptoms of leukemia vs. lymphoma

Leukemia is a slow-moving disease, so the symptoms might not show up immediately. However, over time, you will begin to feel the effects of having an excess of white blood cells and a decrease in red blood cells.

There are two forms of leukemia, acute and chronic. In acute leukemia, cancer spreads very fast. On the other hand, chronic leukemia is more common than acute leukemia. This is because it grows slower in the early stages. Now, it is essential to note that there are four types of leukemia: each type is classified by the origin of the cancer cells and the rate at which they grow. These include:

Lymphomas usually affect the lymph node. The type of leukemia a person has is based on the origin of the cancer cell. Some lymphomas begin in the lymphatic system, while others start in the white blood cells. These cancers are also referred to as non-Hodgkin lymphomas. They are caused by an abnormality within the T- or B-cells.

On the other hand, Hodgkin’s disease starts with a swollen lymph node. Then, it spreads to other lymph nodes and then to different organs in the body, such as the lungs. As a result, Hodgkin’s disease is less common than non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Symptoms that you experience will depend on whether you have Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Leukemia symptoms
Hodgkin disease symptoms Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms
bruises easily βœ“
chest pain βœ“
difficulty breathing βœ“
excessive bleeding, including frequent nosebleeds or bleeding gums βœ“
excessive fatigue βœ“ βœ“
fever and night sweats βœ“ βœ“ βœ“
headaches βœ“
increased body infections βœ“
itchy skin βœ“ βœ“
loss of appetite and weight loss βœ“ βœ“
swollen lymph nodes βœ“ βœ“
swollen, painful abdomen βœ“


Leukemia and lymphoma are both caused by problems with your white blood cells.

When you have leukemia, your bone marrow produces white blood cells in excess. The problem is that these white blood cells don’t die off the usual way that aging blood cells do. Instead, they will continuously divide and overtake the healthy red blood cells. This will become a problem because these red blood cells are vital for normal nutrient and oxygen transport. Leukemia may also begin in the lymph nodes.

Lymphoma often starts in the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are tissues that empower your body to fight against infection. However, some lymphomas may also be caused by the spread of white blood cells to other parts of the body.

Risk factors

Leukemia is the commonest childhood cancer. Over 2,700 children are diagnosed yearly in the United States. Acute leukemia accounts for the majority of the cases in children.

Leukemia may also develop in adults. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most typical type of chronic leukemia among adults. Adults may also develop acute leukemia or chronic myelogenous leukemia. True, some factors may increase one’s risk of developing leukemia. However, some people with known risk factors may never develop this cancer. Risk factors for leukemia include:

  • Smoking
  • Family history of leukemia
  • Previous radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Exposure to some chemicals

Hodgkin lymphoma is widespread in people between 15 and 40 years of age and also people 55 years and older. Anyone may experience non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is not specific to any age. But it is most common in people over the age of 60.


Your doctor will first order a leukemia and lymphoma blood test in order to run a diagnosis. If the test shows abnormal counts for the different blood cell types, your doctor may suspect leukemia. Your healthcare provider may also recommend a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Initial results may be ready within 24 hours. However, a detailed result may take a couple of weeks. A detailed report usually gives your doctor adequate information for your treatment plan.

A bone marrow biopsy is a somewhat uncomfortable procedure. However, it is relatively fast. It usually takes no more than 20 minutes. A sample of your bone marrow will be taken from your hip bone. The area will be numbed with a local anesthetic during the procedure. You may feel a dull pain in your hip for a short duration after the biopsy.


Leukemia treatment is based on your condition during diagnosis. If the cancer is progressing at a slow pace, your healthcare provider might adopt a “watchful waiting” approach. This is usually done for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

If your doctor decides to proceed with the treatment, they will focus on therapies that prevent the formation of abnormal cells in the blood and lymph nodes. Examples include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplants
  • Targeted therapy or drugs that prevents the growth of abnormal cells

Treatment for lymphoma depends on the diagnosis. Cancer cells in Hodgkin’s disease are easier to treat if they are still in the lymph nodes. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the most typical treatments for this type of lymphoma.

These therapies are used for the treatment of non-Hodgkin disease as well. In addition, your healthcare provider may adopt other medicines similar to those used for leukemia. For instance, your doctor may use targeted therapy to prevent white blood cells from getting abnormal.

Points for infographic

Leukemias Lymphomas
Very common in children More common in adults
Has a lower prevalence compared to lymphomas Prevalence is higher than in leukemia
Both are blood-related disorders
Abnormally high white blood cells present in the bloodstream Lymphoma cells will not show up in the bloodstream

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