What's the difference between Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
Answers from Ruben A. Mesa, M.D.
Both Hodgkin's lymphoma (formerly known as Hodgkin's disease) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are lymphomas, a type of cancer that begins in a subset of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are an important part of your immune system. The main difference between Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is in the specific lymphocyte each involves.
A doctor can tell the difference between Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by examining the cancer cells under a microscope. If in examining the cells, the doctor detects the presence of a specific type of abnormal cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell, the lymphoma is classified as Hodgkin's. If the Reed-Sternberg cell is not present, the lymphoma is classified as non-Hodgkin's.
The distinction is important because the treatment and outcomes for each type can be very different.
Oct. 19, 2011
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/Non-HodgkinLymphoma/DetailedGuide/non-hodgkin-lymphoma-what-is-non-hodgkin-lymphoma. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology_and_oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin_lymphomas.html. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease). The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology_and_oncology/lymphomas/hodgkin_lymphoma.html. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Hodgkin disease. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/HodgkinDisease/DetailedGuide/hodgkin-disease-what-is-hodgkin-disease. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Reeder CB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 13, 2011.