What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer that starts in the lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, that helps in removing the waste from the body and fight infections.
What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?
The cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known. Hodgkin lymphoma is most common among people 15 to 35 years old and 50 to 70 years old. Past infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is thought to contribute to some cases. People with HIV infection are at increased risk compared to the general population.
What are the symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?
The first symptom 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.
One or more of the following symptoms may occur due to this disease:
- Fever and chills that come and go
- Itching all over the body that cannot be explained
- Loss of appetite
- Drenching night sweats
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin (swollen glands)
- Weight loss that cannot be explained
The following are the 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
How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and check body areas with lymph nodes to feel if they are swollen.
Doctors usually do the following procedures for diagnosis:
- Blood chemistry tests including protein levels, liver function tests, kidney function tests, and uric acid level
- Bone marrow biopsy
- CT scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis
- Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia and white blood count
- PET (positron emission tomography) scan
If tests confirm Hodgkin lymphoma, more tests will be done to see how far cancer has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps guide treatment and follow-up.
How is Hodgkin lymphoma treated?
A doctor formulates a treatment plan for Hodgkin lymphoma depending on the following factors:
- The type of Hodgkin lymphoma (there are different forms of 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
Depending on the above factors, your doctor may treat you with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Your doctor will explain and discuss with you about the specifics of treatment.
Your doctor may give high-dose chemotherapy if Hodgkin lymphoma returns after treatment or does not respond to the first treatment. This is followed by a stem cell transplant that uses your own stem cells.
Your doctor will also manage side effects and other concerns that arise during leukemia treatment.
The following are the issues and concerns that may need proper management:
- Having chemotherapy at home
- Bleeding problems
- Dry mouth
- Eating enough calories
- Safe eating during cancer treatment
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.