Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of lymph tissue. Lymph tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites.
Lymphoma - Hodgkin; Hodgkin disease; Cancer - Hodgkin lymphoma
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known. Hodgkin lymphoma is most common among people ages 15 to 35 and 50 to 70. Past infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is thought to contribute to some cases. Persons with HIV infection are at increased risk compared to the general population.
- Fever and chills that come and go
- Itching all over the body that cannot be explained
- Loss of appetite
- Soaking night sweats
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin (swollen glands)
- Weight loss that cannot be explained
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
- Coughing, chest pains, or breathing problems if there are swollen lymph nodes in the chest
- Excessive sweating
- Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs due to swollen spleen or liver
- Pain in lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
- Skin blushing or flushing
Symptoms caused by Hodgkin lymphoma may occur with other conditions. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific symptoms.
Signs and tests
The first sign of Hodgkin lymphoma is often a swollen lymph node that appears without a known cause. The disease can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Later it may spread to the spleen, liver, bone marrow, or other organs.
The disease is usually diagnosed after a biopsy of suspected tissue, usually a lymph node biopsy.
If the biopsy and other tests show that you have Hodgkin lymphoma, more tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps guide treatment and follow-up. It also gives you an idea of what to expect in the future.
The following procedures will usually be done:
In rare cases, abdominal surgery is needed to take out a piece of the liver and remove the spleen.
Treatment depends on the following:
- The type of Hodgkin lymphoma (most people have classic Hodgkin lymphoma)
- The stage (where the disease has spread)
- Whether the tumor is more than 4 inches (10 cm) wide
- Your age and other medical issues
- Other factors, including weight loss, night sweats, and fever
You may receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or both. Your doctor can tell you more about your specific treatment.
High-dose chemotherapy may be given when Hodgkin lymphoma returns after treatment or does not respond to the first treatment. This is followed by an autologous stem cell transplant (using your own stem cells).
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences can help you not feel alone.
Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most curable cancers. Cure is even more likely if it is diagnosed and treated early. Unlike other cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma is also curable in its late stages.
You will need to have regular exams and imaging tests for years after your treatment. This helps your doctor check for signs of the cancer returning and for any long-term treatment effects.
Treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma can have complications. Long-term complications of chemotherapy or radiation therapy include:
- Bone marrow diseases (such as leukemia)
- Heart disease
- Inability to have children (infertility)
- Lung problems
- Other cancers
- Thyroid problems
Keep following up with a doctor who knows about monitoring and preventing these complications.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if:
- You have symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma
- You have Hodgkin lymphoma and you have side effects from the treatment
Horning SJ. Hodgkin's lymphoma. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2008:chap 111.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 08/30/2012. Available at http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adulthodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed 01/04/2013.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 10/25/2012. Available at http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childhodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed 01/04/2013.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Hodgkin Lymphoma. Version 2.2012. Available at http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/hodgkins.pdf. Accessed 01/04/2013.
Last reviewed 2/8/2013 by Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Blackman, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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