Hodgkin Lymphoma: The Basics

Author: OncoLink Team
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Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphatic tissue. HL happens when infection-fighting cells in the lymph nodes begin to grow out of control. It affects the immune system and can be called a “blood cancer”. There are two types of HL: classical and nodular lymphocyte-predominant. 

Risks

The actual cause of HL is not known, but there are some known risks:

  • Having had the Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Family history of HL.
  • Use of some pesticides and herbicides.
  • Immune system depression from organ/bone marrow transplant inherited immune deficiencies, and infections, including HIV.

Screening

There are no screening tests for HL.

Signs of HL

The first sign of HL is often swelling of the lymph nodes. HL commonly affects the nodes in the neck causing neck swelling. Other sites include underarm, upper chest, belly, and groin. Other signs of HL are:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy Skin

Diagnosis of HL

When your healthcare provider suspects HL, they will perform a complete health history and exam. A biopsy will be done of the enlarged lymph node, removing some cells or the whole lymph node. 

Other tests which may be done to see if the extent of the cancer includes:

  • Blood tests.
  • Chest x-ray.
  • CT scan or MRI of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
  • PET scan.
  • Bone marrow biopsy.

Staging HL

Staging for HL is done based on the Cotswold system, which ranges from stages I through IV. Stage I being the least involved and stage IV being the most involved. Stages I and II are divided into two groups: favorable and unfavorable. 

  • Stage I: A single lymph node is involved.
  • Stage II: Two or more lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm or one lymph node region plus a nearby area or organ. Called locally advanced disease. 
  • Stage III: Lymph nodes above and below the diaphragm are involved or one node is and one organ on the opposite side of the diaphragm. Called advanced disease.
  • Stage IV: Spread outside the lymph nodes and spleen into one or more areas of the body including the bone, bone marrow, skin, and organs. Called widespread disease. 

Letters E, S, B, A and X can be added to each stage to represent the symptoms related to the diagnosis.

Treatment

HL treatment is determined by the type of HL, the stage, and the person’s health. Your treatment plan may include more than one type of treatment. 

  • Chemotherapy is the use of medications to treat the cancer.
  • Radiation uses high energy rays (similar to x-rays) to kill cancer cells in a targeted, small area of the body.
  • Stem cell transplants use a patient’s own, or another person’s bone marrow or stem cells to help the patient recover after administration of high doses of chemotherapy.

This article is a basic guide to HL. You can learn more about HL diagnosis and treatment by using the link below.

All About Hodgkin Lymphoma 

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