Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of lymph tissue. Lymph tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites.
Lymphoma - Hodgkin; Hodgkin disease; Cancer - Hodgkin lymphoma
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.
Itching all over the body that cannot be explained
Loss of appetite
Soaking night sweats
Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin (swollen glands)
Weight loss that cannot be explained
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Coughing, chest pains, or breathing problems if there are swollen lymph nodes in the chest
Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs due to swollen spleen or liver
Pain in lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
Skin blushing or flushing
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.
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:
Blood chemistry tests including protein levels, liver function tests, kidney function tests, and uric acid level
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
You have symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma
You have Hodgkin lymphoma and you have side effects from the treatment
Bartlett NL, Foyli KV. Hodgkin lymphoma. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 105.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified: Feb. 28, 2014. Available at http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adulthodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed: March 28, 2014.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified: Nov. 21, 2013. Available at http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childhodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed: March 28, 2014.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Hodgkin Lymphoma. Version 2.2014. Available at http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/hodgkins.pdf. Accessed: March 28, 2014.
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.