Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Differences and Similarities

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What are the risk factors for Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)?

Both Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can occur in people of any age, but the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma increases with age, with most patients being diagnosed in their 60s. Hodgkin's disease occurs most commonly in two distinct age groups: younger people between 15 and 40 years of age (most commonly in the age range of 20 to 30) and people who are 55 or older at the time of diagnosis.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)?

The symptoms of both types of lymphoma include painless swelling of involved lymph nodes, and further symptoms are dependent upon the location and extent (spread) of the cancer. Hodgkin's lymphomas are more likely to begin in lymph nodes in the upper body (such as in the neck, underarms, or chest), but both types of lymphoma can be found anywhere in the body. Both types of lymphoma may also be associated with general symptoms of weight loss, fevers, and night sweats, although there are many other causes for these nonspecific symptoms.

What are the treatments for Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)?

The prognosis and treatment of all lymphomas is highly dependent upon the exact type and characterization of malignant lymphocytes; the growth characteristics and location of a particular tumor; the extent to which the tumor has already spread at the time of diagnosis; and the age and overall health status of the patient. Both radiation therapy and various chemotherapy drugs have been used with success in the treatment of both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Newer treatments are developing for certain types of lymphomas including treatments using biologic medications -- such as antibodies that target certain lymphocytes called B cells, and stem cell transplantation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2015

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