Hodgkin lymphoma

Definition

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of lymph tissue. Lymph tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites.

Causes

The cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known. Hodgkin lymphoma is most common among people ages 15 to 35 and 50 to 70. Past infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is thought to contribute to some cases. Persons with HIV infection are at increased risk compared to the general population.

Symptoms

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

Symptoms caused by Hodgkin lymphoma may occur with other conditions. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific symptoms.

Exams and Tests

The first sign of Hodgkin lymphoma is often a swollen lymph node that appears without a known cause. The disease can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Later it may spread to the spleen, liver, bone marrow, or other organs.

The disease is usually diagnosed after a biopsy of suspected tissue, usually a lymph node biopsy.

If the biopsy and other tests show that you have Hodgkin lymphoma, more tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps guide treatment and follow-up. It also gives you an idea of what to expect in the future.

The following procedures will usually be done:

In rare cases, abdominal surgery is needed to take out a piece of the liver and remove the spleen.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the following:

You may receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or both. Your doctor can tell you more about your specific treatment.

High-dose chemotherapy may be given when Hodgkin lymphoma returns after treatment or does not respond to the first treatment. This is followed by an autologous stem cell transplant (using your own stem cells).

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences can help you not feel alone. 

Outlook (Prognosis)

Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most curable cancers. Cure is even more likely if it is diagnosed and treated early. Unlike other cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma is also curable in its late stages.

You will need to have regular exams and imaging tests for years after your treatment. This helps your doctor check for signs of the cancer returning and for any long-term treatment effects.

Possible Complications

Treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma can have complications. Long-term complications of chemotherapy or radiation therapy include:

Keep following up with a doctor who knows about monitoring and preventing these complications.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:


Review Date: 2/8/2013
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Blackman, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.