What’s the Difference Between Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma? [Infographic]

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Although the diseases may sound similar, there is a lot of difference between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. We spoke with Arnold Freedman, MD, of the Adult Lymphoma Program at Dana-Farber, to learn more.

Although the diseases may sound similar, there is a lot of difference between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Arnold Freedman, MD, is an oncologist in the Adult Lymphoma Program at Dana-Farber.

Arnold Freedman, MD, an oncologist in the Adult Lymphoma Program at Dana-Farber.

Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are malignancies of a family of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which help the body fight off infections and other diseases. Hodgkin lymphoma is marked by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are mature B cells that have become malignant, are unusually large, and carry more than one nucleus. The first sign of the disease is often the appearance of enlarged lymph nodes. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, by contrast, can be derived from B cells or T cells and can arise in the lymph nodes as well as other organs. (B cells and T cells play different roles in the body’s immune response to disease.)

Both diseases are relatively rare, but non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in the United States, with more than 70,000 new cases diagnosed each year, compared to about 8,000 for Hodgkin lymphoma. The median age of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 60, but it occurs in all age groups. Hodgkin lymphoma most often occurs in people ages 15 to 24 and in people over 60. There are more than 60 distinct types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, whereas Hodgkin lymphoma is a more homogeneous disease.

The two forms of lymphoma are marked by a painless swelling of the lymph nodes. Hodgkin lymphomas are more likely to arise in the upper portion of the body (the neck, underarms, or chest). Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can arise in lymph nodes throughout the body, but can also arise in normal organs. Patients with either type can have symptoms such as weight loss, fevers, and night sweats.

The diseases often follow different courses of progression. Hodgkin lymphoma tends to progress in an orderly fashion, moving from one group of lymph nodes to the next, and is often diagnosed before it reaches an advanced stage. Most patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Treatments for lymphoma vary depending on the type of disease, its aggressiveness, and location, along with the age and general health of the patient. As a general rule, however, Hodgkin lymphoma is considered one of the most treatable cancers, with more than 90 percent of patients surviving more than five years. Survival rates for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma tend to be lower, but for certain types of the disease, the survival rates are similar to those of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. New treatment approaches, including the use of therapies that spur the immune system to attack cancerous lymphocytes, are showing considerable promise.

Learn more in the infographic below:

Ed. note: An earlier version of this infographic incorrectly stated there are 50,000 sub-types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, rather than 60. The graphic was updated and replaced in January 2017.

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10 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma? [Infographic]

  1. Dear Ldavis,

    Thank you for your comment. We’re very sorry to hear of your medical troubles, and understand your concern for your daughter, which is normal at such an emotional time. We have resources on our website for parents being treated for cancer, which can help make life easier for you and your daughter through treatment: http://www.dana-farber.org/Adult-Care/Treatment-and-Support/Patient-and-Family-Support/Family-Connections.aspx

    We also recommend you speak to a member of your care team, such as a social worker, about your worries, as they should be able to provide you with helpful resources and support as well.

    We wish you all the best.
    DFCI

  2. My Dr threw the word HLD b4 sending me away with a pile of tests I need to do tomorrow. I have to say in afraid, not for me but my 4 year old daughter. Its just me and I don’t know what to expect if it does turn up as cancer. What kind of quality of life will I be able to offer her, what kind of care will I need and will it take away from my care for the one thing I that’ll get me through this. What should I plan? Thank you

  3. What is your personal opinion on the possible connection of HL and NHL to exposure to chemicals containing glyphosate?

    Thanks!

  4. I am in remission from NHL and I also have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. Are people with auto immune diseases more likely to develop NHL?

    • Dear Jeannie —

      Thank you for your question and for reading Insight. While we cannot comment on your specific medical background, problems with regulation of the immune system can lead to both autoimmune diseases and, in some cases, lymphoma. We hope this is helpful! All the best.

  5. If a parent is diagnosed with CML what is the likelihood their children could develop CML?

  6. This article is very informative, my take on this. There are a few distinct differences between HL and NHL including how the disease spreads, where tumors are most commonly found in the body and variances in symptomology experienced by individuals. Additionally, treatment protocols are very different. HL is not as common as NHL and the age of onset for HL occurs in a bimodal (2 age time points) distribution with the average age of onset at 28 years and a less substantive peak after age 55, whereas it is less common to see cases of NHL in people under age 50 . For both HL and NHL the most common location of the tumors is in the lymph nodes and occurs above the collarbone.

  7. Curious if an older sibling had CLL how likely would younger siblings get this?
    Thank you.

    • Dear Colleen – Thank you for your comment and for reading our blog. Although it is a rare disease, family history is a risk factor for the development of CLL. For first-degree relatives of CLL patients (parents, siblings, and children), the risk is estimated to be about 5 to 7 times higher than the general population. We hope this is helpful. If you have questions about your specific risk, please ask your doctor. Wishing you all the best. – DFCI

  8. What is your personal opinion on the possible connection of HL and NHL to exposure to chemicals containing glyphosate?

    Thanks!

  9. I am in remission from NHL and I also have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. Are people with auto immune diseases more likely to develop NHL?

    1. Dear Jeannie —

      Thank you for your question and for reading Insight. While we cannot comment on your specific medical background, problems with regulation of the immune system can lead to both autoimmune diseases and, in some cases, lymphoma. We hope this is helpful! All the best.

  10. My Dr threw the word HLD b4 sending me away with a pile of tests I need to do tomorrow. I have to say in afraid, not for me but my 4 year old daughter. Its just me and I don’t know what to expect if it does turn up as cancer. What kind of quality of life will I be able to offer her, what kind of care will I need and will it take away from my care for the one thing I that’ll get me through this. What should I plan? Thank you

  11. This article is very informative, my take on this. There are a few distinct differences between HL and NHL including how the disease spreads, where tumors are most commonly found in the body and variances in symptomology experienced by individuals. Additionally, treatment protocols are very different. HL is not as common as NHL and the age of onset for HL occurs in a bimodal (2 age time points) distribution with the average age of onset at 28 years and a less substantive peak after age 55, whereas it is less common to see cases of NHL in people under age 50 . For both HL and NHL the most common location of the tumors is in the lymph nodes and occurs above the collarbone.

  12. Curious if an older sibling had CLL how likely would younger siblings get this?
    Thank you.

    1. Dear Colleen – Thank you for your comment and for reading our blog. Although it is a rare disease, family history is a risk factor for the development of CLL. For first-degree relatives of CLL patients (parents, siblings, and children), the risk is estimated to be about 5 to 7 times higher than the general population. We hope this is helpful. If you have questions about your specific risk, please ask your doctor. Wishing you all the best. – DFCI

  13. If a parent is diagnosed with CML what is the likelihood their children could develop CML?

    1. Dear TC – Thank you for your comment and for reading our blog. There is currently no evidence that CML runs in families: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-chronicmyeloidcml/detailedguide/leukemia-chronic-myeloid-myelogenous-risk-factors. However, if you are concerned about your, of your children’s, likelihood of developing CML, you should speak with your doctor, who can give you the best picture of your potential risk. Wishing you all the best.

  14. Dear Ldavis,

    Thank you for your comment. We’re very sorry to hear of your medical troubles, and understand your concern for your daughter, which is normal at such an emotional time. We have resources on our website for parents being treated for cancer, which can help make life easier for you and your daughter through treatment: http://www.dana-farber.org/Adult-Care/Treatment-and-Support/Patient-and-Family-Support/Family-Connections.aspx

    We also recommend you speak to a member of your care team, such as a social worker, about your worries, as they should be able to provide you with helpful resources and support as well.

    We wish you all the best.
    DFCI

Comments are closed.

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