Leukemia Vs Lymphoma: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, And More

Since both leukemia and lymphoma are types of blood cancer, most people easily get confused between these terms. The key difference is that while leukemia occurs in the bone marrow, lymphoma starts in the lymphatic system and impacts the lymph nodes and lymph tissues. 

Also, leukemia is more prevalent in children, while lymphoma generally affects older adults. Though there are some similarities between these two types of blood cancer, their causes, origins, symptoms, treatment, and survival rate differ. 

This article will look at the basic similarities and differences between leukemia and lymphoma so that you never get confused about these conditions ever.

CAUSES: Leukemia Vs Lymphoma

Leukemia 

Leukemia occurs due to cell change within the bone marrow. When the normal cell mutates and forms a leukemia cell, it may grow and keep the normal cells from developing. As the leukemia cells continue to grow and divide, they exceed the healthy cells in the body. With more and more healthy cells getting replaced with leukemia cells, you may start experiencing leukemia symptoms. 

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is also caused when healthy cells mutate into cancer cells, although the exact cause of lymphoma is not known. In lymphoma, a healthy lymphocyte, which is a type of white blood cells, mutates and causes rapid cell production. Lymphoma usually starts at B cells (B lymphocytes) and T (T lymphocytes) cells throughout the body.

TYPES: Leukemia Vs Lymphoma

Leukemia

Following are the main types of leukemia:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): The most common form of leukemia in children.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): This is one of the most common forms of leukemia in adults.
  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL): An aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia where promyelocytes (a blood-forming cell) proliferate and decrease the number of other blood cells in the body.
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL): A rare form of leukemia that is resulted due to an overproduction of B lymphocytes
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): This is the most common chronic leukemia among adults.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): A form of leukemia that is generally caused due to a genetic abnormality in chromosome 22, known as the Philadelphia chromosome
  • Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN): It occurs when the bone marrow produces too many blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  • Systemic mastocytosis: It results from the buildup of mast cells (a type of white blood cell) in the body.

Lymphoma

Following are the two main types of lymphoma:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma: It usually starts in the B cells and is known to be one of the most treatable types of cancer. 
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: This is the most common type of lymphoma that usually starts in B cells or T cells. 

Also Read: Leukemia: Causes, Risk Factors & Types

SYMPTOMS: Leukemia Vs Lymphoma

Leukemia

  • Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Frequent infection
  • Unexplained bleeding

Lymphoma

  • Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss

DIAGNOSIS: Leukemia Vs Lymphoma

Leukemia

Leukemia is generally diagnosed by a general physician or a specialist. The first steps in the diagnostic process involve a physical exam and medical history. Your healthcare specialist may order blood tests to look for any abnormal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelet counts. 

A small sample of your bone marrow may also be taken to look for the presence of leukemia cells in the bone marrow. For this, your doctor will insert a long, thin needle into your hip to extract some bone marrow fluid from your body. The extracted fluid is then sent to a lab to be evaluated for abnormal cells. 

Lymphoma

Like in leukemia, the first steps in diagnosing lymphoma involve a physical examination and medical history. Your oncologist will check for any signs of swelling in your lymph nodes or other organs. In case lymphoma is suspected, your lymph node samples will be taken and sent to a lab for further testing. Blood tests may also be performed to look for any abnormal levels of blood cells. In some cases, doctors also recommend MRI, CT, or PET scans.

TREATMENT: Leukemia Vs Lymphoma

Leukemia

The treatment for leukemia depends upon numerous factors, including the type of leukemia, stage of cancer, and age. Common treatment options for leukemia include:

  • Chemotherapy: This is the first-line treatment for most cases of leukemia. During chemotherapy, drugs are utilized to kill leukemia cells within the body. Your oncologist may use a single drug or a combination of several drugs in the procedure. The doctor will decide on what’s the best drug to start with.  
  • Targeted drug therapy: For some leukemia patients, targeted drug therapy can also be a suitable option. In this, leukemia cells throughout the body are tested to check if a targeted drug can successfully kill the cancer cells. 
  • Radiation therapy: It is the process of utilizing high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. It can help stop the progression of harmful cancer cells, but healthy cells can also get affected within the process. 
  • Bone marrow transplant: Also called stem cell transplant, can be used to kill cancer-filled bone marrow and replace it with healthy bone marrow. Bone marrow transplant is generally done after the patients have already received chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill most cancer cells in the bone marrow. The healthy bone marrow obtained from the transplant helps replace the diseased bone marrow effectively. 
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is also a great treatment alternative, but not every leukemia patient is a suitable candidate for the same.

Lymphoma

The treatment of lymphoma also depends upon the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. For some cases, the simple “watch and wait” approach may be considered to see if cancer continues to progress. Some lymphomas progress very gradually and can be monitored for several years without changes. Your oncologist will assess your condition with routine physical examinations and bloodwork to determine whether the disease is stable or demands further treatment.

Some common lymphoma treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is generally considered the first-line treatment for lymphomas as well. Drugs are administered either orally or through intravenous cells to avoid cell growth and kill the harmful cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: This can also be used to damage the DNA of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: This is also an alternative. Ask your doctor if you’re a suitable candidate for immunotherapy.
  • Bone marrow transplant: It can be used to replace disease bone marrow with a healthy one. This new bone marrow helps create new white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Make sure to ask your doctor regarding the side effects of a bone marrow transplant undergoing the procedure. Its side effects are very harsh and thus may not be the right treatment option for many individuals.

Sources:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321692
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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for CheapMedicineShop.com. She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.