What is Hodgkin's lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. This system includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow.

Hodgkin's lymphoma starts when cells called lymphocytes reproduce rapidly and build up in the lymphatic system.

Hodgkin's lymphoma can also spread beyond the lymphatic system.

Blood Cancer

Causes of Hodgkin's lymphoma

The exact cause is unknown, but there are risk factors that can increase the risk.

Risk factors for Hodgkin's lymphoma

Risk factors for Hodgkin's lymphoma include:

  • Gender — men are slightly more likely than women to get Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Age — individuals 15 to 30 years old and older than 55 are more likely to be diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Family history — having a blood relative who has had Hodgkin's lymphoma may put you at a greater risk for diagnosis
  • Previous illness — having had an illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, such as infectious mononucleosis (mono), may increase your risk for Hodgkin's lymphoma

Symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma

Signs of Hodgkin's lymphoma can include:

  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Non-stop fatigue
  • Fever
  • Severe itching
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lymph nodes that hurt after you drink alcoholic beverages
  • Coughing, chest pain or trouble breathing

Diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma

Doctors use a number of tests and procedures to look for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

These can include:

  • Physical exam — a doctor checks the lymph nodes, liver and spleen to see whether they are swollen.
  • Blood tests — a sample of blood is collected and examined in a lab.
  • Diagnostic imaging — x-ray, CT or PET scan give doctors a view inside the body to review for signs of cancer.
  • Biopsy — the doctor removes a lymph node, which is tested in a lab to find out whether it contains abnormal cells.
  • Bone marrow test — the doctor inserts a needle into the hip bone and removes a sample of bone marrow that are analyzed for abnormal cells.

Treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma

Doctors may recommend a number of treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sometimes treatments are used together or sequentially.

Treatment options can include:

  • Chemotherapy — this treatment involves drugs given either orally in pill form or intravenously into the blood stream. Chemo can be done in cycles or rounds over a period of months.
  • Radiation therapy — this treatment uses high-powered rays, like x-rays, to attack affected areas such as the lymph nodes and other places in the body that cancerous cells might travel to.
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplant — with this treatment, the doctor first removes blood stem cells from the body, the patient then receives chemo and radiation therapy to try to destroy the cancer, finally the stem cells are returned to the body so they can help to rebuild the bone marrow.

Recovery from Hodgkin's lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a challenging diagnosis, but treatment can result in a full recovery.

Survivors should continue to visit their doctor for follow-up care and monitoring and focus on living as healthy a lifestyle as they can.

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