- Posted by jdavis on August 24, 2011
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), also known as Hodgkin disease, is a less common form of lymphoma. Researchers know it is a cancer which arises from an abnormal lymphocyte (white blood cell). Of the nearly 500,000 Americans with lymphoma, over 142,000 have Hodgkin lymphoma. HL occurs mainly in young adults, with a peak occurrence between ages 16 and 34. Older patients, especially those over age 55, may also develop HL.
The diagnosis of HL depends on having abnormal blood cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. HL has been studied more than any other type of lymphoma. With the many rapid advances in diagnosis and treatment, over 80% of patients with HL can be cured.
How Do Hodgkin Lymphomas Develop?
HL usually starts in the lymph nodes. Since lymph tissues all over the body are connected, cancerous lymphocytes circulate throughout the lymphatic vessels. HL often spreads from one lymph node to another and can also spread to organs outside the lymph system. Unlike other lymphomas, HL tends to spread more in sequence from one lymph node area to the next, as opposed to non-Hodgkin lymphoma which can skip around the body.
What Are The Warning Signs?
While most people who have these complaints will not have HL, anyone with persistent symptoms should be seen by a doctor to make sure that lymphoma is not present: swelling of the lymph nodes (which is often but not always painless), fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, and lack of energy.
What Are The Risk Factors?
The causes of Hodgkin lymphoma remain unknown, but immune system impairment and exposure to environmental carcinogens, pesticides, herbicides, viruses, and bacteria may play a role. There may be a higher risk for getting HL in individuals:
- Infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mononucleosis), or HIV
- With a family history of HL (though no hereditary pattern has been well established)
How Is HL Treated?
Most patients live long and healthy lives following successful treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Many people treated will receive some form of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of the two. Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation may sometimes be used under special circumstances.