Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma occurs when cells dividing in the lymphatic system grow at an accelerated, disorganized rate. Because lymphatic vessels branch throughout the body, Hodgkin's lymphoma can arise anywhere and spread to organs like the liver, bone marrow and spleen. Typically Hodgkin's disease spreads systematically to adjacent lymph nodes.

Risk Factors

  • Diagnosed most frequently in patients between ages 18 and 34, and after the age of 55
  • Occurs more often in men than in women
  • A patient with Hodgkin's disease raises the risk level for his or her siblings
  • Having the Epstein-Barr virus
  • Immunosuppression, such as with HIV

Symptoms

Those who suffer from Hodgkin's lymphomas may experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Painless swelling in the neck, underarms or groin
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Itchiness
  • Constant fatigue

Detection and Diagnosis

If a patient has a number of symptoms or risk factors, the following tests can be performed.
X-rays, CAT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), and PET scans are used by physicians to detect cancerous growth by taking internal pictures of the body.

To make a diagnosis, a pathologist must perform a biopsy, where a piece of tissue removed by a surgeon from one of the patient's lymph nodes, are examined under a microscope.
To determine what stage the lymphoma is in, the physician may use any of the above tests, or he may order further biopsies of other lymphatic tissue.

Treatment Options

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for Hodgkin's disease. Talk to your doctor about the best possible treatment options for your specific case.

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells with intense x-rays aimed only at the cancerous growth. Radiation can be emitted from outside the patient's body, or radioactive materials can be placed internally at the targeted area. Side effects from radiation therapy include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and problems with digestion.

Chemotherapy involves taking drugs which kill cells that are growing rapidly, thus noncancerous cells can be killed as well. Side effects vary by type of drug but in general, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sores on the mouth and the lips and a lower resistance to infection are expected.

Bone marrow transplantation is reserved for cases when the Hodgkin's disease returns.

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