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Quick Facts

Hodgkin Lymphoma

(Hodgkin's Lymphoma; Hodgkin's Disease)

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

Lymphoma is cancer of a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. Lymphocytes and other white blood cells help your body fight disease.

Lymphocytes travel through your blood vessels and then through your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is made up of lymph nodes and lymph vessels. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped organs that fight disease and are in your neck, groin, and armpits.

Lymphatic System: Helping Defend Against Infection

In lymphoma, lymphocytes grow out of control. They build up in your lymph nodes and sometimes in your liver, spleen, and inside your bones (bone marrow).

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that involves one particular type of lymphocyte. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma involves other types of lymphocytes.

  • Hodgkin lymphoma usually starts in your lymph nodes and makes them swell up

  • Doctors treat Hodgkin lymphoma with chemotherapy and radiation therapy

  • Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured

What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?

Doctors don’t know what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. It isn't something you can catch from other people.

What are the symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?

Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpit, or groin—these are usually painless but may hurt for a few hours after drinking alcohol

  • Fever

  • Night sweats

  • Weight loss

  • Itching

  • Feeling weak and tired

Other symptoms may happen depending on where the cancer cells are growing. For example, swollen lymph nodes in your chest may press on your airways causing you to cough or have difficulty breathing.

How can doctors tell if I have Hodgkin lymphoma?

Doctors suspect Hodgkin lymphoma when you have a lot of swollen, painless lymph nodes that don't go away after a few weeks.

To make the diagnosis, doctors do a:

  • Biopsy (making a small cut to take out a swollen lymph node to look at under a microscope)

Before doctors treat you for Hodgkin lymphoma, they need to see how far it has spread. Doctors use several tests to check the spread of Hodgkin lymphoma, such as:

  • Blood tests, including tests of liver and kidney function

  • Chest x-rays

  • CT scan of your chest, belly area, and pelvis

How do doctors treat Hodgkin lymphoma?

Doctors treat Hodgkin lymphoma with:

If Hodgkin lymphoma comes back after treatment, doctors treat it with:

After treatment, doctors continue to watch for problems by doing regular exams and tests such as chest x-rays and CT scans to see if your cancer has come back.

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