Hodgkin's Lymphoma -- Adult

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains excess fluid from the blood and protects against infection. Hodgkin's lymphoma is different from other forms of lymphoma . Cancer occurs when cells in the body—in this case a type of white blood cell called lymphocyte—divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissue and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

  • Causes

    The cause of Hodgkin's lymphoma is unknown. It is likely related to complex genetic and environmental factors that lead to changes of the immune system. There are some compelling pieces of data to suggest that it is caused by a virus. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been considered.

  • Definition

    Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains excess fluid from the blood and protects against infection. Hodgkin's lymphoma is different from other forms of lymphoma.

    The Lymphatic Organs
    The Lymphatic Organs
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    Cancer occurs when cells in the body—in this case a type of white blood cell called lymphocyte—divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissue and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying particular attention to your lymph nodes. Most enlarged or swollen lymph nodes result from infection, not lymphomas. If infection is suspected, you may be given medication and instructed to return for a follow-up appointment.

    If swelling persists, your doctor may order a lymph node biopsy. The biopsy results will show whether there is cancer, and if so, the type and extent of the cancer that is present.

    Treatment of Hodgkin’s disease depends on the stage of the disease. The stage identifies how far the cancer has spread and what organs are affected. In general, this means that staging tests to evaluate the condition of the lymph nodes in the body, the liver, spleen, and bone marrow must be done.

    Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

    Your internal bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    • Positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scan
    • Gallium scan

    Abdominal surgery may be needed to remove the spleen and to biopsy the liver. This is not common because of the accuracy of noninvasive scans.

  • Prevention

    There are no guidelines for preventing Hodgkin's lymphoma because the cause is unknown.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of getting Hodgkin's lymphoma include:

    • Sex: male
    • Ages: 15-40 and over 55
    • Family history
    • History of infectious mononucleosis or infection with Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis
    • Weakened immune system, including infection with HIV or the presence of AIDS

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin
    • Persistent fatigue
    • Night sweating
    • Coughing
    • Unexplained fever
    • Weight loss
    • Itching
    • Decreased appetite

  • Treatment

    Hodgkin's lymphoma is generally considered one of the more curable forms of cancer. Treatment options include: