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Lymphomas are either Hodgkin lymphomas or non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Hodgkin lymphomas have a type of cell called Reed-Sternberg cells. Lymphomas without these cells are non-Hodgkin lymphomas. This topic is about Hodgkin lymphoma. To learn about non-Hodgkin lymphoma, see the topic Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that begins in part of the immune system (the lymph system). White blood cells called lymphocytes can become abnormal or increase in number and grow without control. They may form lumps of tissue called tumors, usually in the lymph nodes of the neck, armpits, or chest.
This topic is about the most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma, called classical Hodgkin lymphoma. There are other types of Hodgkin lymphoma.
Like other cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. To find out how severe your cancer is, your doctor will classify it by stage and grade.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a very curable cancer compared to other cancers. But treatment success depends on your gender, the type of Hodgkin lymphoma you have, its stage, and your age when you are diagnosed.
What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?
Experts don't know what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. Some things are known to increase the chance that you will get it. These are called risk factors. Risk factors include:
- Infection with a virus, such as Epstein-Barr or HIV.
- Having a weak immune system.
- Age. This cancer is most common in people ages 15 to 35 and people age 55 and older.
- A family history of the disease.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include swollen lymph nodes, a fever, weight loss, and night sweats.
How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your and your family's medical history and will do a physical exam. You may also get:
- A complete blood count, to check the number of white and red blood cells.
- A chest X-ray.
- A biopsy. The doctor may remove part or all of a lymph node to check for cancer. A biopsy is the only sure way to know if you have the cancer.
- A PET scan, a CT scan, or a PET-CT scan.
- A bone marrow biopsy.
How is it treated?
Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma depends on what type you have and the stage of the disease. It also depends on the size of the tumor, your age, and your symptoms. It is usually treated with medicines called chemotherapy. You may need radiation treatment or targeted therapy.
If the cancer comes back, you may need a stem cell transplant.
Chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy can have serious side effects. But the benefits of the medicine are usually more important than any side effects. Side effects may go away after you use the treatment for a while.
Your medical team will help you manage the side effects of your treatment. If you have chemotherapy or radiation, you may need medicines to control nausea and vomiting.
Fatigue is common with cancer treatment. But staying active and eating well before, during, and after your treatment may help you have more energy.
- Get some physical activity every day. Ask a friend to take a walk with you.
- Eat healthy foods. Foods with protein and extra calories can help you stay strong and prevent weight loss. Try liquid meal replacements.
- Eat smaller meals more often, or eat your main meal early.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
Talk with your doctor and medical team about your side effects.
You may be interested in taking part in research studies called clinical trials. Clinical trials are based on the most up-to-date information. They carefully study the use of new treatments and new combinations of current treatments.
Other Works Consulted
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2012). Hodgkin lymphoma. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, version 2.2012. Available online: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/hodgkins.pdf.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Douglas A. Stewart MD - Medical Oncology