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Difference between breast cancer and lymphoma?


Lymphoma is a cancer which develops from the lymphocytes which are a type of white blood cells. It is a type of blood cell tumor or lymphoid tissue tumor. There are two main types of lymphomas namely- Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Breast cancer, in contrast, is a tumor that develops in the breast tissue.  Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue and may spread to the adjacent lymph nodes.

Lymphoma is the most common hematological malignancy in the world whereas breast cancer is the most common form of malignancy found in females in the reproductive age group. Lymphoma is also the primary form of tumor seen in pediatric age group. Over the years since science has advanced a lot both these form of cancers have better prognosis and have better outcomes.

Difference in manifestation

Lymphoma has causative factors like Ebstein Barr Virus whereas breast cancer initiates purely on hereditary factors and absence of breast feeding increases the risks of breast cancer.

Lymph node enlargement is the chief and primary symptom of a lymphoma. Accompanying symptoms include fever, night sweats, weight loss and generalized fatigue. Lymphoma is an uncontrolled overgrowth of the lymphatic system and hence it is generalized in the body and not related to a particular part of the body.

In breast cancer, there is shrinking of the skin overlying the breast tissue along with dimpled skin appearance which is very often referred to as orange peel skin or peau d’ orange appearance. There may be discharge from the nipple which may be bloody or offensive.  Breast cancer is a localized tumor. Breast cancer too may be accompanied with symptoms like fever, night sweats and breast pain.

Difference in investigations

Diagnosis of a lymphoma is made by partial or total excision of the lymph node and then studying the cross sectional tissues of the node for the grade of cancer. After diagnosis of lymphoma is made, one can classify it histologically with tests such as flow cytometry or immuno-phenotyping.

Fine needle aspiration cytology is a form of investigation which is used to differentiate between cancer and benign growth of cells in the breast.  Detection of breast cancer is done by breast ultra sonography, mammography or sono-mammography. These are very reliable tests and will detect even the minutest of the growth.

Difference in treatment

Treatment for breast cancer is surgical removal of the tumor followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Surgical intervention is needed as the tumor might spread. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated with radiotherapy as it is localized whereas non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated with chemotherapy as it spreads all across the body. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a good prognosis whereas non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has poor prognosis.

The prognosis of lymphoma is bad because it is abnormal and uncontrolled division of lymphocytes (white blood corpuscles) which are circulating in the body. It spreads all over very rapidly and the prognosis is good if it is detected in the initial stages. Breast cancer may develop in one or both the breasts but has a very high relapse rate and hence patients are called for follow ups regularly.


Lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells called lymphocytes found everywhere in the body. Breast cancer is a cancer confined to the breast tissue and usually found in women.

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