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.
- Diagnosed most frequently in patients between ages 18 and 34, and after the age of 55
- Occurs more often in men than in women
- Family history
- Having the Epstein-Barr virus
- A weakened immune system due to HIV
Those who suffer from Hodgkin's lymphomas may experience a combination of the following symptoms:
- Painless swelling in the neck, underarms or groin
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Constant fatigue
Detection and Diagnosis
X-rays, CAT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are used by physicians to detect cancerous growth.
X-rays take pictures of the inside of the body with high-energy radiation. CAT scans take more detailed pictures of the inside of the body with an x-ray machine linked to a computer.
MRI's also take detailed pictures, but with a powerful magnet linked to a computer.
PET scans gives more information about how organs and tissues are working useing a radioactive substance called a tracer.
To make a diagnosis, a pathologist must perform a biopsy, or examine a piece of tissue removed by a surgeon from one of the patient's lymph nodes under a microscope.
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.