Hodgkins disease (HD) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) are two types of lymphoma. Lymphoma is defined by the National Library of Medicine as a cancer of the lymphatic system.
HD and NHL differ in how they behave and spread. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), HD spreads in a predictable fashion (stepwise, from lymph node to lymph node), making it easier to treat than NHL, which is less predictable and more likely to spread to other body parts.
Lymph System Overview
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and is made up of lymph vessels, fluid and lymphoid tissue. Lymphoid tissue contains cells that help the body fight off infection and disease.
According to the ACS, lymphoid tissue is found in many different areas of the body including: the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, bone marrow, digestive tract and tonsils. As such, lymphoma can occur almost anywhere.
According to the National Cancer Institutes (NCI), both HD and NHL begin when a lymphocyte (usually a B cell) becomes abnormal and begins to divide rapidly, overcrowding the normal cells. As a result of this cell overgrowth, a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor may form in the lymphoid tissue.
A painless, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, unexplained weight loss, fever, severe night sweats, coughing, trouble breathing, chest pain and ongoing weakness/tiredness are symptoms of both HD and NHL, according to the NCI.
Pain, swelling and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen may also be a sign of NHL, while itchy skin and an increased sensitivity to alcohol or pain in a lymph node after drinking alcohol may indicate HD.
Although treatment varies case by case, the ACS website lists chemotherapy and radiation therapy as the most common treatment options for both HD and NHL.
In some situations, stem cell transplants may also be used in conjunction with the above methods.
Surgery is rarely used to treat either HD or NHL.
According to the NCI a weakened immune system, certain viruses (such as Epstein-Barr or HIV) and a family history of lymphoma may increase a person's risk of developing either HD or NHL.
Age also plays a factor. HD is most common in younger individuals (aged 15 to 35) and in adults 55 years old or older. In contrast, most people with NHL are over the age of 60.
Of the two, HD has the better survival rate.
According to a review conducted by the NCI, the overall five-year relative survival between the year 1999 and 2006 for HD was 84.7 percent. For NHL it was 67.4 percent.