What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphocytes, which are the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells. A key part of the immune system, lymphocytes are found within the lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen and thymus, as well as other parts of the body.

There are two main types of lymphoma: non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin. Each condition develops in a specific type of lymphocyte, progresses at a different rate and requires a unique combination of treatments. While both conditions are relatively rare, non-Hodgkin occurs more commonly than Hodgkin.

What are the differences between lymphoma and leukemia?

Lymphoma, which causes the lymphocytes to change and grow rapidly out of control, is often confused with leukemia, a different type of cancer that affects the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. While neither condition can be diagnosed based on its symptoms alone, it is important to be able recognize the signs of both. The most common symptoms of lymphoma are:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever, night sweats and chills

Leukemia, on the other hand, often produces bone and joint pain, anemia, pale skin, bruising and easy bleeding. In most cases, a diagnosis of either condition can be confirmed after a blood sample is examined under a microscope. Specifically, a pathologist will look for abnormal patterns of certain proteins occurring at a cellular level.

How is lymphoma treated?

Lymphoma is often treatable and can sometimes be cured. The optimal approach can vary based on a patient’s individual needs and the unique dynamics of his or her cancer. Many people benefit from chemotherapy, and innovative new therapies designed to spur the immune system to target cancerous lymphocytes are showing considerable promise in clinical trials.

If you’d like to learn more about cancers that affect the blood and bone marrow, contact Moffitt Cancer Center, where a full range of the latest diagnostic and treatment options is available in a single location. You can request an appointment with an oncologist in our Malignant Hematology Program by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.