Hodgkin's disease/Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system. It is listed separately from other lymphomas due to its special clinical characteristics and good prognosis.
The lymph system spreads throughout the body (glands, spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, and lymphatic vessels). In Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a specific lymph system cell (Reed-Sternberg cell) reproduces at an uncontrollable rate causing the glands to swell, and over time, affect neighbouring glands in other parts of the organism, such as the spleen, or the bone marrow. It is rare for Hodgkin's Lymphoma to spread to the liver or to other organs and tissue.
See the video about the lymph node at the Medline Medical Encyclopaedia
Each year, the number of new cases is 20 in a million. The most commonly affected are young people, between 15 and 35 years old or people older than 55. Amongst the younger generation, women are more frequently affected but men are affected the most in the older bracket.
60-70% of patients do not experience any symptoms and are diagnosed by detecting a swelling of the glands, normally in the neck or above the collarbone, but also in the armpits and the groin. Occasionally, abdominal pain can indicate an inflammation of the spleen. Some patients develop symptoms resulting from the compression of a particular part of the body by swollen glands (dry cough, lower back pain).
Typical symptoms that can develop are: fever, predominantly at night; frequent sweating; and accelerated weight loss. Other characteristics of this disease can be a general itching, which affects 10-15% of patients, and a pain in the inflamed glands after consuming alcohol.
The diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma is reached by conducting a biopsy of one of the swollen glands and must be completed by carrying out an extensive medical study of the disease (scans designed to determine exactly how many glandular areas have been affected). This study will include a blood test, one or more image scans (radiograph, ultrasound, nuclear scans, MRI scan) and a bone marrow biopsy (biopsy of the hip bone) to assess the condition of the bone marrow.
The treatment of Hodgkin's Lymphoma varies depending on the extent of the disease but it is always based around a programme of chemotherapy. Occasionally radiotherapy will be used on the affected area or on the glandular regions of the thorax and the abdomen.
Chemotherapy involves the application of various active medications to fight the disease, administered every 4 weeks for 3 to 8 cycles depending on the severity of the disease.
Patients who do not respond to this treatment or who suffer relapses of the disease after successful chemotherapy, should consider an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant which saves a large percentage of patients.
75 % of patients with Hodgkin's Lymphoma are cured thanks to the treatments discussed above.
If you would like more information, you can consult the following pages:
• Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Medline Plus
• Treatment of Hodgkin's Lymphoma in adults, resource of the National Cancer Institute
• Information about Childhood Hodgkin's Lymphoma, National Cancer Institute