Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system. The lymph system is a series of tubes and nodes that run through the body. It contains a fluid that helps fight infections and move waste out of the body.
The cancer starts in a type of lymph cell called a lymphocyte. These cells spread throughout the lymph system. Eventually, the cells will make it harder for your body to fight infections. It is considered a very treatable form of cancer.
The Lymphatic System
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The exact cause is not known. A combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
Hodgkins is more likely to occur in males and people between ages 15-40 years or over 55 years. Factors that may increase your risk of Hodgkins lymphoma include:
- Family history of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
History of Epstein-Barr virus the virus that causes
Weakened immune system such as
- Exposure to certain chemicals such as formaldehyde
- Use of human growth hormone for an extended amount of time
Symptoms of hodgkins lymphoma may include:
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, groin, or chest
- Night sweating
- Unexplained fever
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
These symptoms can be caused by other less serious conditions. Tell the doctor if your child has any of these symptoms.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. The doctor will examine your child’s lymph nodes. Most swollen lymph nodes result from infection, not cancer.
If swelling persists, the doctor may order blood tests to evaluate the liver and blood. The diagnosis will be confirmed by taking a sample of tissue and examining it for the presence of cancer or other abnormalities. The tissue samples will be taken through biopsies such as:
Imaging studies will also be done to see what lymph nodes are involved. Imaging studies may include:
- CT scan
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body; done to evaluate the lymph nodes
- PET scan
—a test that uses a small amount of radiation to show activity in the body tissue
- Lymphangiogram—dye is injected into the lymph system to see which areas are involved
Treatment depends on the stage of the disease. The stage is determined by how far the cancer has spread and what organs are affected.
The healthcare team will work to make a treatment plan for your child. Treatment options may include:
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. With
radiation therapy, radiation is directed at a specific area to kill the cancer cells. In many cases, both chemotherapy and radiation are used.
Surgery is not often used for Hodgkin lymphoma. It may be effective if the cancer is isolated to just one lymph node. Surgery will remove the affected lymph node.
Treatment and the cancer itself can damage blood and lymph cells. Transplantation will help the body rebuild these cells after treatment. Transplant options may include:
- Bone marrow transplantation
—Bone marrow is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein. Transplanted bone marrow may be your child’s bone marrow that was treated to remove cancer cells or marrow from a healthy donor.
- Peripheral blood stem cell transplantation—Stem cells are removed from circulating blood before chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Once treatment is done, the stem cells are then placed back into the blood.
Since the exact cause is unknown, there is no way to prevent this type of cancer.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Hodgkin’s lymphoma in children. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin website. Available at:
http://www.chw.org/display/PPF/DocID/21998/router.asp. Accessed June 19, 2013.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkindisease/detailedguide/index. Accessed June 19, 2013.
Hodgkin disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 8, 2013. Accessed June 19, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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