Hodgkins lymphoma is a type of lymph tissue cancer that is found in the spleen, lymph nodes, liver, bone marrow and distant sites in the body.

The first sign of Hodgkin's lymphoma includes enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit, chest, upper chest and groin area. It starts in one lymph node and spreads to other lymph nodes rather rapidly. The cause of the disease isn't known but it is most common in teens and adults aged 15 to 35 and between the ages of 50 and 70 years. It is felt to be related to having been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus or EBV.

The major symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma include fever and chills, fatigue, total body itching without an obvious rash, night sweats that soak the clothing, lymph node swelling, and unexplained weight loss. Related symptoms can include breathing difficulties, chest pain, coughing and swollen nodes in the chest. There can be excessive sweating, pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol, pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs because of a swollen liver or spleen and flushing of the skin.

Doctors can test for the presence of Hodgkin's lymphoma by taking a lymph node biopsy. In other cases, a bone marrow biopsy can show if the lymphoma has spread to the bone marrow. Additional tests are done in order to further define the Hodgkin's lymphoma once it has been identified. Blood chemistry tests can be done to see if the lymphoma is in the liver or kidneys. A uric acid and protein level are done. CT scans of the chest identify if the lymphoma is present in the chest. It is also done of the pelvis and abdomen to find areas of residual lymphoma. A PET scan will look for areas of increased radioactive glucose activity in certain body areas.

In some cases, abdominal surgery can be done to biopsy the liver and remove the spleen if necessary.

Treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma depends on the type of Hodgkin's lymphoma you are dealing with, the stage of the disease, the patient's age and other issues involving their medical condition, how big the tumors are and on the patient's symptoms. Stage I disease involves one lymph node region, stage II involves two lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm, and Stage III involves lymph nodes affected on both sides of the diaphragm. In stage IV disease, there is spread of cancer to the bone marrow, liver or lungs.

Treatment in stages I and II disease can be treated with chemotherapy, surgery or local radiation. Stage III is treated with both chemotherapy and radiation. Stage IV disease is extensive and involves treatment with only chemotherapy. Recurrent disease or non-responding disease involves treatment with an autologous bone marrow transplant using stem cells harvested from your own bone marrow. You may also need blood transfusions in order to take care of low blood cells, low platelets or low white blood cells. Antibiotics are used to fight off possible infections that can occur.

Prognosis for Hodgkin's lymphoma depends on the stage of the disease and the health of the individual with the Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is one of the most curable types of cancer, even in its later stages. With stage I or II disease, more than 90 percent of individuals live past 10 years. If the disease is of a higher stage, 90 percent of these people survive past five years. Survival past fifteen years is considered a cure for the disease. If the disease returns within a year, the prognosis isn't as good. Regular checkups are necessary to make sure the person does not have a recurrence of the disease.

Possible long term complications of having radiation or chemotherapy include another bone marrow disease, heart disease, infertility, other types of cancer, thyroid disorders, and lung problems.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here