Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of lymph tissue. Lymph tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites.
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 may include any of the following:
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.
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.
If the biopsy and other tests show that you have Hodgkin lymphoma, more tests will be done to see how far the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps guide treatment and follow-up.
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 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).
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.
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 very 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.
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.
Call your health care provider if:
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.