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Difference Between Sarcoidosis and Lymphoma

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that mainly affects the lymphatic system and the lungs. Lymphoma is a cancer that affects cells of the lymphatic system.

What is Sarcoidosis?


Sarcoidosis can be defined as the illness in which granulomas form in the tissues of the lungs and lymph nodes of the body. Sarcoidosis can sometimes affect other organs like the liver and heart.


The cause of sarcoidosis is believed to be an inflammatory response that ends up creating inflamed swollen areas called granulomas. Genes may be involved in the disease. There is also evidence for environmental antigens and pollutants triggering the inflammation producing the sarcoidosis.


A biopsy of lymph nodes along with chest X-rays can be used to diagnosis the illness in people who are suspected of having sarcoidosis.


Symptoms include feeling very tired, having a fever, being short of breath, and having lung crackles. It can also cause problems with vision and impact the liver or bone marrow. About 30% of people with sarcoidosis have the chronic form of the disease. 


Corticosteroid medications and other medicine that suppresses the immune response can help to control the illness. Pain killers that are NSAIDS can help with discomfort during flare-ups.

What is Lymphoma?


Lymphoma is a cluster of cancerous conditions that involves the lymph glands and nodes and the cells of the reticuloendothelial system. There are two main types of lymphoma: non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One of the forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the rare Burkitt’s lymphoma, which is an aggressive type of cancer.


Lymphoma is caused by a genetic mutation in a lymphocyte. A lymphocyte is a type of white blood cell that is important in the immune system. It is unknown what exactly causes the mutation, but exposure to chemicals or even genetics may play a role. In addition, some viruses such as the Epstein-Barr virus are now believed to play a role in the development of some types of cancer, including lymphoma.


In both types of lymphoma, the diagnosis is based on imaging technologies such as CT scan and MRI. A lymph biopsy can be done. The biopsy is positive for lymphoma if there are Reed-Sternberg cells present in the tissue. 


The symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma include Inflamed and swollen lymph glands in the neck and armpits, fever, night sweats, and intense itching of the skin.  The symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include swollen lymph glands and nodes throughout the body. Fatigue, anorexia, fever, and weight loss are also symptoms.


Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated using various approaches depending on the stage of the cancer Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, using antibody-conjugate drugs, and immunotherapy are all options. A stem cell transplant is another possibility for some patients. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma uses the same treatment methods but also includes certain targeted drugs that inhibit particular enzymes.

Difference between Sarcoidosis and Lymphoma


Sarcoidosis is the illness in which inflammation in the body causes granulomas to be produced mainly in the lungs and lymph nodes. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects a person’s lymphatic system.

Age of diagnosis

Typically, sarcoidosis is first detected in people who either young adults or are middle-aged. Lymphoma can be diagnosed at any age because there are different types of illness that affect different ages from teens and children to older adults. Non-Hodgkin’s is common in adults over 65; but some forms occur in children. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is seen in people aged 15 to 30. 


The cause of sarcoidosis is inflammation. The cause of lymphoma is a genetic change, a mutation, that takes place in a lymphocyte.


The symptoms seen with sarcoidosis include the following: night sweats, enlarged lymph nodes and glands, feeling short of breath, and wheezing. The symptoms seen with lymphoma include the following: fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.


Sarcoidosis can be treated with NSAIDS for pain, and medicine to suppress the immune response. Lymphoma can be treated with one or more of the following methods: antibody-conjugate drugs, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.

Table comparing Sarcoidosis and Lymphoma

Summary of Sarcoidosis Vs. Lymphoma

  • Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory problem that involves the lymph nodes but also the lungs.
  • Lymphoma is cancer that affects the lymphatic system of the body.
  • There are two types of Lymphoma: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Both sarcoidosis and lymphoma produce swollen lymph glands and nodes, but a biopsy can distinguish between the two illnesses .


Can sarcoidosis be mistaken for lymphoma?

Initially sarcoidosis may appear to be lymphoma, but the presence of the granulomas in the lungs along with a biopsy can distinguish the two conditions. The presence of Reed-Sternberg cells in a lymph node biopsy can conclusively diagnose lymphoma.

Is sarcoidosis a form of lymphoma?

No, sarcoidosis is not a type of cancer while lymphoma is.

Can a lymph node biopsy detect sarcoidosis?

Yes, a lymph node biopsy is routinely used to look for cells within the sarcoidosis granulomas. This is how a positive diagnosis of sarcoidosis is often made.

Can sarcoidosis become cancerous?

There is an increased risk of sarcoid granulomas becoming cancerous in the future. It may increase the odds of other types of cancer in the future, including lymphoma and lung cancer.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Dr. Osborn, My brother is 55 and being treated at this time for one of these conditions. His biopsy is scheduled for 1/7/2022 the Pandemic is slowing this process down. He is very ill. I found your article very informative. I am giving you his information in the hope that you may know any changes or help he may receive in this area . Thank You.

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References :

[0]El Jammal, Thomas, et al. "Sarcoidosis and cancer: a complex relationship." Frontiers in Medicine 7 (2020).

[1]Michael C. Iannuzzi, and Sah, B.P. “Sarcoidosis”. Merck Manual, 2021, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/sarcoidosis/sarcoidosis

[2]Peter, Martin and Leonard, J.P. “Overview of lymphoma”. Merck Manual, 2021, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/overview-of-lymphoma

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEEbYwHge0-sarcoidosis-biopsy/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADqvzRWSGY-hodgkin-s-lymphoma-light-micrograph/

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