Multiple myeloma (MM) and lymphoma are both cancers that affect cells in a person’s blood. MM is a cancer of plasma cells, while lymphoma is a cancer of lymphocytes. Both plasma cells and lymphocytes are types of white blood cell.

MM is a cancer of plasma cells, which are present in the bone marrow.

Lymphoma is a cancer of lymphocytes. These white blood cells originate in the bone marrow and are present in blood and lymph tissue.

This article compares the two different types of cancers. It also looks at the other types of lymphoma.

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The following table compares the two types of cancer:

MMLymphoma
Definitiona cancer of plasma cells present in the bone marrowa cancer of lymphocytes, which are white blood cells
Risk factorsRisk factors include:
• being over the age of 65 years
• being male
• having a family history of MM
• having obesity
• having other plasma cell diseases
Risk factors include:
• being male
• having certain viral or bacterial infections
• being in one’s 20s or over the age of 55 years
• having a weakened immune system
• having an autoimmune condition
• having a family history of lymphoma
• having obesity
• having experienced radiation exposure
SymptomsSymptoms include:
bone pain and weakened bones
• low levels of red and white blood cells and blood platelets
• increased thirst
frequent urination
dehydration
kidney problems
back pain
weakness
shortness of breath
itching
swollen legs
• more frequent infections
Symptoms include:
enlarged lymph nodes
• itchy skin
fatigue
loss of appetite
coughing and chest pain
trouble breathing
fever
night sweats
unexplained weight loss
• swollen abdomen
• a feeling of fullness even after eating small amounts of food
easy bruising
TreatmentTreatment options include:
chemotherapy
• immunomodulating agents
• proteasome inhibitors
stem cell transplants
• surgery and radiation therapy
Treatment options include:
• chemotherapy
• radiation therapy
immunotherapy
• stem cell transplants
OutlookThe average 5-year survival rate for a person with MM is 55.6%.The average 5-year survival rate for a person with Hodgkin lymphoma is 81–91%.

The average 5-year survival rate for someone with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 72%.

The following are causes and risk factors for each of the two cancers:

MM

According to the American Cancer Society, the following factors can increase a person’s risk of developing MM:

Furthermore, MM affects African Americans more than twice as frequently as it does white people. However, health experts do not know the cause of this.

Lymphoma

The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Factors that increase a person’s risk of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • being in their 20s or over the age of 55 years
  • being male
  • having a family history of lymphoma
  • having a weakened immune system
  • having an autoimmune condition

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes mononucleosis, or mono. If a person has mono, they are at an increased risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma. However, this risk is still very small and is about 1 in 1,000.

Factors that increase an individual’s likelihood of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • being over the age of 60 years
  • being male
  • having experienced exposure to radiation
  • having a weakened immune system
  • having an autoimmune condition
  • having obesity or overweight

Moreover, specific viral and bacterial infections can increase a person’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These include EBV, the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), and the human herpes virus 8.

In rare instances, breast implants can cause a person to develop anaplastic large cell lymphoma, which is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The following are symptoms of each of the two cancer types:

MM

Signs and symptoms of MM include:

Symptoms
Bone problemsThis includes bone pain, commonly in the back, hips, and skull. It also includes bone weakness, or osteoporosis, and broken bones.
Low blood countsSymptoms of low red blood cell levels include weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
Low levels of white blood cells can weaken a person’s immune system and make them more vulnerable to infections.
Low levels of blood platelets can cause a person to bleed more than normal, even from minor cuts.
High calcium levels in the bloodThis can cause a number of symptoms, such as thirst, frequent urination, dehydration, kidney problems, constipation, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, drowsiness, and weakness.
Damage to the nervous systemThis can lead to such symptoms as severe back pain, numbness in the legs, and muscle weakness.
Kidney problemsMM can cause damage to the kidneys. Symptoms of this often take a while to arise, but when they do, they can include weakness, shortness of breath, itching, and swollen legs.

People with MM are at a higher risk of infections. If a person with MM develops an infection, they may be slow to respond to treatment.

Lymphoma

The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is the presence of a lump under the skin, which is an enlarged lymph node.

These lumps are commonly located in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin. Typically, they do not cause any pain, but they may hurt after a person drinks alcohol.

Other signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • itchy skin
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • coughing and chest pain
  • trouble breathing
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • unexplained weight loss

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can also cause the lymph nodes to become swollen. This can result in the formation of lumps under the skin.

Other symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • chills
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue
  • swollen abdomen
  • a feeling of fullness even after eating small amounts of food
  • chest pain
  • coughing and shortness of breath
  • frequent infections
  • easy bruising or bleeding

In the sections below, we discuss treatment options for MM and lymphoma.

MM

A doctor will assess a person’s health and individual goals to help decide on a treatment plan that best suits their needs.

Below are some treatment options for an individual with MM:

  • chemotherapy, which destroys or controls the growth of cancer cells
  • immunomodulating agents, which work alongside the immune system to kill cancer cells
  • stem cell transplant, which can produce new, healthy blood-forming cells to replace the ones that chemotherapy destroyed
  • surgery, although this is uncommon

Lymphoma

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are both common treatment options for most types of lymphoma.

A person with lymphoma may also receive immunotherapy to treat their cancer. This treatment uses certain medicines that help the individual’s immune system work more effectively. Immunotherapy helps the immune system better recognize and destroy cancer cells.

Stem cell transplants make another effective treatment for most types of lymphoma.

Factors that can affect a person’s survival time include their age, general health, and time of diagnosis.

MM

On average, a person with MM has a 55.6% chance of living for 5 years after a diagnosis.

Lymphoma

The average 5-year survival rate for a person with Hodgkin lymphoma is 81–91%, depending on the stage of their cancer.

The average 5-year survival rate for a person with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 72%.

When diagnosing MM or lymphoma, doctors will often begin by taking a personal and family history of the individual. They may then carry out a physical examination.

A doctor will then order a variety of tests to diagnose the specific type of cancer.

These tests include:

A doctor may also need to carry out a lymph node biopsy to diagnose lymphoma.

If an individual has cancer, they could develop another cancer. Health experts refer to this as second cancer.

If a person has a blood cancer, such as MM or lymphoma, they are likely to have another blood cancer.

Additionally, people with MM have an increased risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia.

Individuals with Hodgkin lymphoma can have any type of second cancer. However, they are at an increased risk of certain cancers that health experts associate with treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

People with non-Hodgkin lymphoma can also develop any type of second cancer. They have an increased risk of a number of cancers, including leukemia.

Other types of lymphoma include the following:

Follicular lymphoma

The table below provides an overview of follicular lymphoma:

Follicular lymphoma
DefinitionIt is the second most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It arises from B lymphocytes, making it a B-cell lymphoma.
Risk factors• being 60 years old or older
• having a family history of the condition
• having a weakened immune system
• taking immunosuppressive medications
• having certain viral infections, including EBV
• smoking
• having obesity
• consuming alcohol
Symptoms• swollen lymph nodes
• fatigue
• shortness of breath
• fever
• night sweats
• unexplained weight loss
• infections
Treatment• chemotherapy
• radiation therapy
• stem cell transplants
• immunotherapy
OutlookThe 5-year survival rate is 85–96%.

Mantle cell lymphoma

The table below gives an overview of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL):

MCL
DefinitionIt is a type of lymphoma that begins in the part of the lymph node called the mantle zone.
Risk factors• being around 68 years old
• being male
• having a family history of the condition
• having a weakened immune system
• taking immunosuppressive medications
Symptoms• fatigue
• loss of appetite
vomiting
• unexplained weight loss
• fever and night sweats
nausea
• swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
heartburn
• abdominal pain
lower back pain often moving down to the legs
Treatment• chemotherapy
• immunotherapy
OutlookThe average survival time after a diagnosis ranges from 1.8 to 9.4 years, depending on how aggressive the cancer is.

Adult T-cell lymphoma

The table below shows an overview of adult T-cell (ATL) lymphoma:

ATL lymphoma
DefinitionIt is an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects T cells.
Risk factors• having an HTLV-1 infection
• being male
• having a family history of the condition
Symptoms• fatigue
• swollen lymph nodes
• skin rashes
• bone pain
Treatment• antiviral therapy
• chemotherapy
• stem cell transplants
• immunotherapy
OutlookATL has a poor prognosis, with short overall survival even with treatment.

B-cell lymphomas

The table below gives an overview of B-cell lymphomas:

B-cell lymphomas
DefinitionThese affect immune cells called B lymphocytes.
Risk factors• having a weakened immune system
• having an autoimmune condition
• having a viral infection
• being over the age of 60 years
• having experienced exposure to certain chemicals
Symptoms• fever and night sweats
• unexplained weight loss
• fatigue
• loss of appetite
• abdominal pain
• severe itching
Treatment• chemotherapy
• immunotherapy
• stem cell transplants
• radiation therapy
OutlookThe 5-year survival rate is 57–73%.

Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma

The table below shows an overview of lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (LPL):

LPL
DefinitionThis is a slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that begins in B cells.
Risk factors• being over the age of 50 years
• being male
• having a family history of the condition
• having a hepatitis C infection
• having an autoimmune condition
Symptoms• fatigue
• weakness
• fever and night sweats
• swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
• dizziness
• unexplained weight loss
• visual difficulties, such as blurred vision
Treatment• chemotherapy
• immunotherapy
• stem cell transplants
• radiation therapy
OutlookThe average survival time is approximately 5 years. However, around 40% of people with this cancer survive for 10 years or more.

MM and lymphoma are both types of blood cancer. MM starts in plasma cells, and lymphoma begins in lymphocytes. Both of these cell types are a part of the immune system.

Treatment for these cancers includes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, stem cell transplants, and radiation therapy.

The outlook for MM and lymphoma depends on many factors.

The average 5-year survival rate for someone with MM is 55.6%. The average 5-year survival rate for an individual with Hodgkin lymphoma is between 81% and 91%. The average 5-year survival rate for a person with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 72%.