What's the difference between Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?

Answers from Ruben A. Mesa, M.D.

Both Hodgkin's lymphoma 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 integral part of your immune system, which protects you from germs.

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.

Additional tests may be used to determine the specific type of lymphoma.

Your type of lymphoma helps your doctor determine your prognosis and your treatment options. The types of lymphoma have very different disease courses and treatment choices, so an accurate diagnosis is an integral part of getting the care you need.

Nov. 06, 2014 See more Expert Answers