B-cell Lymphoma vs. T-cell Lymphoma


In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you have your B-cell lymphomas and you have your T-cell lymphomas. What are the differences between the two?

Why B and Why T?

To begin, don't attach too much significance to the letters B and T; the people who assigned them didn't attach much, so you shouldn't either.

In fact, B-cells don't even get their name from research into human anatomy. They get it from research into bird anatomy, but the B isn't for "birds"; the B is for the site in birds where this specific type of blood cell matures, called the bursa of fabricius. Fortunately, in humans and many other mammals, B-cells mature in the bone marrow, allowing the B to continue to make sense.

Meanwhile, T-cells do get their name from human anatomy. Like in B-cells, the letter comes from the site where they mature; in this case, it is the thymus.

Prognoses and Incidence

The prognoses of most T-cell lymphomas are not that great; they're worse than the prognoses in most B-cell lymphomas.

B-cell five-year relative survival rates from the SEER statistics:

  • Localized disease: 82.3 percent
  • Regional disease: 75.2 percent
  • Metastatic disease: 63.6 percent

T-cell five-year relative survival rates from the SEER statistics:

  • Localized disease: 84.5 percent
  • Regional disease: 57.4 percent
  • Metastatic disease: 38.6 percent

As seen above, when caught early, the five-year relative survival rates are pretty equal, but when the disease has spread from the primary site, even just to regional areas, the prognosis begins to slip. When the disease is advanced, the relative survival rate nearly drops by half.

This is generally the case, not because T-cell lymphomas are so difficult to treat, but because T-cell lymphomas are so rare, and are therefore not studied as frequently as their B-cell counterparts. Approximately 85 percent of all non-Hodgkin's lymphomas diagnosed in the United States each year are of B-cell origin, leaving just 15 percent of diagnoses to be of T-cell origin.


Finally, it should be added that B-cell lymphomas are much easier for pathologists to diagnose. Accurately diagnosing T-cell lymphomas, on the other hand, is extremely difficult, so any diagnosis of T-cell lymphoma should prompt a second opinion from a qualified blood pathologist.

You can read more about B-cell lymphomas by clicking here.

You can read more about T-cell lymphomas by clicking here.

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