What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
Hodgkin lymphoma, also sometimes called Hodgkin disease, is a cancer that affects the tissues and lymph nodes of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. The lymphatic system is a complex series of thin vessels, similar to blood vessels, that run throughout the body. Lymph vessels carry a clear liquid called lymph that contains a type of white blood cell (lymphocyte). The lymphatic system also contains lymph nodes, the spleen, thymus, and tonsils.
In Hodgkin lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally, and, as it progresses, this compromises the body’s ability to fight infection. This can spread beyond the lymphatic system as well. There are four main types of Hodgkin lymphoma, categorized by the type of cells present. They are: nodular sclerosis, mixed cellularity, lymphocyte predominant, and lymphocyte depleted.
Most of the individuals who develop Hodgkin lymphoma are between 15 and 40 years of age. It can affect children and people past the age of 50, but that is less common. Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for less than one percent of cancer cases in the United States.
It is pertinent to note that there is another kind of cancer of the lymphatic system called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is much more common.
What are the symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?
Characteristic symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include the following:
- Swollen lymph nodes, usually in the neck, but otherwise in the armpits, chest, groin, or abdomen
- Fever and chills
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Bone pain
- Enlargement of the spleen and/or liver
- Abnormalities affecting the gastrointestinal system and/or the kidneys
What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?
The exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. Most cases occur when B cells (cells that fight infection) develop a mutation in their DNA. The mutation tells the cells to divide too rapidly and live too long. This causes a large number of abnormal B cells to accumulate in the lymphatic system, where they crowd out heathy cells. This is what causes the symptoms of the disease. Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in any part of the lymphatic system, and since lymphatic tissue can be found in many different parts of the body, the disease can spread to almost anywhere.
How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?
Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed using the following procedures:
- Thorough clinical evaluation
- Detailed patient history
- Identification of characteristic findings
- Biopsy of lymph node tissue
- CT scans
- Lymphangiograms (special x-ray technique that’s focuses on the lymphatic system)
What are the treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma?
The specific treatment regimen for Hodgkin lymphoma depends on the stage and type of the disease. Treatment options include:
Where can I find out more about Hodgkin lymphoma?