What’s the Difference Between Lymphoma and Lymphocytic Leukemia?

While lymphomas and lymphocytic leukemias are both blood disorders, they are not the same disease.

lymphoma, cells, cancer
Lymphoma cells

The main difference between lymphomas and lymphocytic leukemias is the location of the cancer cells. In leukemia, they’re found primarily in the bone marrow and blood; in lymphoma, they exist mainly in the lymph system, a network of tissues and vessels that drain toxins and other unwanted materials from the body.

The two diseases do share some similarities. They both begin in immature “progenitor” cells that originate in the bone marrow and later develop into white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Lymphocytes, which make up about 20-40 percent of all the white blood cells in the body, play a key role in the immune system’s response to infection, foreign substances, and diseases, including cancer. Both can impair the immune system’s ability to defend the body from disease, leaving patients more vulnerable to infections.

The early symptoms of the two diseases can also be similar, involving fever, fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, and other problems. Treatment often includes radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy, but is tailored to the exact type of disease that a patient has.