Of those who responded to our 2018 Blood Cancer In America survey, 32% were impacted by lymphoma, a type of blood cancer found in the lymphatic system. The two major types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While both begin in the white blood cells known as lymphocytes, they look different under a microscope: Hodgkin lymphoma has Reed-Sternberg cells, visibly different than those of other lymphomas. And while Hodgkin lymphoma usually starts with enlarged lymph nodes, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can start in the lymph nodes or in other organs.1
Some blood cancers may not cause symptoms or may first be discovered through routine blood tests. However, lymphoma is more likely than other forms of blood cancer to cause symptoms that prompt a doctor’s visit. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed say they experienced symptoms that motivated them to make an appointment with their doctor.
The tests used to diagnose lymphoma varied among survey respondents:
53% had some other form of biopsy, such as a lymph node
Compared to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, those who took our survey with Hodgkin lymphoma were more likely to be diagnosed before age 40 and often had additional tests such as a CT scan, lymph node removal, or physical exam that led to their diagnosis.
Lymphoma and other forms of blood cancer
Our survey respondents with lymphoma were more likely than those with other types of blood cancer to have had other types of blood cancer, with 22% of those with lymphoma saying they have had two or more types of blood cancer. One of the risks of many treatments for lymphoma is that a person is at an increased risk of developing a second cancer. Second cancers are different than a recurrence – when the original cancer returns – and common second cancers for people who have had lymphoma include other blood cancers as well as solid tumors.2,3
Hope for those with lymphoma
Despite a significant number of those with lymphoma being diagnosed at later stages, the majority of our community members with lymphoma are in remission now. Over a third of people with lymphoma were diagnosed with Stage IV disease, and another 20% were classified as having Stage III disease. Although many were diagnosed with lymphoma at a late stage, 94% of those with Hodgkin lymphoma and 75% of those with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are in remission now.
What’s the difference between Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Available at https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2015/07/what-is-the-difference-between-hodgkin-lymphoma-and-non-hodgkin-lymphoma/. Accessed 8/24/18.
Second cancers after non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society. Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/after-treatment/second-cancers.html. Accessed 8/24/18.
Lymphoma – Hodgkin: late effects of treatment. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Available at https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lymphoma-hodgkin/late-effects-treatment. Accessed 8/24/18.