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What Is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Hodgkin’s lymphoma (or Hodgkin’s disease) is a type of cancer of the lymph nodes (lymph glands). Lymph glands and lymph vessels are part of the immune system that filter infection and other diseases from the body. The disease usually affects lymph glands, white blood cells, and the spleen. People of any age can have it, but those between 15 and 30 and older than 50 years most often get it. It can range from mild to severe. About 80% of people can be cured, especially if the disease is found and treated early.

What Causes Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

The cause is unknown. People with impaired immune systems have greater risk.

What Are the Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

The most common symptom is swollen, painless, rubbery lymph glands, usually in the armpit, groin, and neck. Others include bleeding or easy bruising, fatigue, fever, itching, night sweats, pain in lymph glands after drinking alcohol, weakness, and weight loss. Certain symptoms relate to where the disease spreads.

How Is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosed?

The doctor will make a diagnosis from a medical history, physical examination, blood tests, and lymph gland and bone marrow biopsies. Biopsies involve getting bone marrow (with a needle) and/or small pieces of lymph node tissue for study with a microscope. Other tests may in some cases include laparotomy, which is surgery on the abdomen (belly) for disease staging. Staging shows how far the disease has spread. Chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET, a kind of x-ray) may also be done for staging. The health care provider will suggest seeing an oncologist (cancer treatment specialist) and radiation oncologist (specialist in treating cancer with radiation).

How Is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treated?

Treatment depends on how far the disease has spread. Chemotherapy (using drugs) and radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) are used to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually first given intravenously (directly into vein), in the hospital. Pain medicine will also be given. Severe or recurrent disease may need a bone marrow transplant. Some treatments may affect the ability to have children.

Treatment is generally very effective and cures four out of five patients.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma:

  • DO tell your health care provider about your medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter ones.
  • DO tell your health care provider if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • DO talk to someone about the stress of having cancer. Call your health care provider if you feel depressed. Find support groups.
  • DO take care of your teeth and mouth to prevent mouth sores.
  • DO consider placing sperm in a sperm bank or eggs in an egg bank if you are planning to have children.
  • DO remember that treatment involves a team: primary care health care provider, oncologist, radiation oncologist, surgeon, nutritionist, and social service workers.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have pain, fever, or drainage from the incision after surgery.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing with a fever after radiation.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have bleeding, bruising, fever, nausea, or vomiting after chemotherapy.
  • DON’T ignore swollen lymph glands.
  • DON’T miss follow-up appointments during or after treatment.
  • DON’T be afraid to ask for medicine for pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Contact the following sources:

  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
    Tel: (800) 955-4572
  • National Cancer Institute
    Tel: (800) 422-6237

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

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