Hodgkin lymphoma is a kind of cancer that starts in the lymph system. The lymph system includes the lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and other parts of the body's immune and blood-forming systems, such as the spleen and bone marrow. The lymph system makes and stores infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes. It carries these cells to places in the body where there is infection. Lymph nodes and lymph vessels are found throughout the body.
Hodgkin lymphoma, also called Hodgkin disease, is one of the most curable cancers.
When you have Hodgkin lymphoma, your body makes too many abnormal lymphocytes. It is not known why this happens. These cancer cells crowd into the lymph nodes and may also go to other parts of the body, most often the spleen. Tumors may grow and interfere with normal body functions.
Hodgkin lymphoma can occur in children or adults. The chance of having this disease is greatest in young adults.
No major risk factors have been found. You may have a slightly higher risk for Hodgkin lymphoma if:
Most people who have known risk factors do not get Hodgkin lymphoma. On the other hand, people who do get the disease often have no known risk factors. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss this concern with your healthcare provider.
Signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma are:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. A sample of tissue will be taken from a swollen lymph node and examined under a microscope. This removal of a sample of tissue is called a biopsy. If you have Hodgkin lymphoma, unusual cells called Reed-Sternberg cells will be found in the tissue.
When Hodgkin lymphoma is found, more tests will be done to determine the stage of the disease and to see if it has spread. Some of the tests that tests that may be done are:
Treatment depends on the stage of the disease (where the lymphoma is found), as well as your general health.
Radiation therapy, anticancer drugs (chemotherapy), or both will be used to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. If you need very high doses of chemotherapy, stem cells (young blood cells) may be taken from your bone marrow or blood before treatment and kept frozen. The chemotherapy might severely damage your bone marrow and its ability to make blood cells. If this happens, the blood-forming stem cells can be given back to you after chemotherapy. This is called a stem cell transplant. Stem cells can also be given to you from a healthy person (donor).
You may be more at risk for serious infections during and after your treatment.
Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured in most cases. When treatment begins in the early stages, radiation therapy can cure 80 to 90% of people. When the disease is found in a later stage, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy has about a 40% chance of cure.
Because the cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not understood and there are no clear risk factors, doctors do not know how to prevent it.