Hodgkin's lymphoma, also referred to as Hodgkin’s disease, is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps protect the body against infection and disease. It consists of a network of lymph vessels and small organs that are called lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body. Clusters of nodes are found in the neck, groin, chest, abdomen and underarms. Lymph nodes produce and store white blood cells. White blood cells help the body fight infection and disease.

The Lymphatic Organs

The Lymphatic Organs
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Hodgkin’s disease is a specific form of lymphoma. Lymphoma occurs when lymph cells divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

A unique type of cell called Reed-Sternberg cell is characteristic of Hodgkin’s disease. Hodgkin’s disease can begin in any part of the body, but most cases start in the upper body. The disease usually originates in the lymph nodes or lymphatic tissue. From there, the disease has the potential to spread throughout the body. However, Hodgkin’s disease usually progresses in a fairly predictable pattern to nearby lymph nodes. Symptoms may occur when the growing lymph nodes or other lymphatic tissue press on nearby structures.

Who Is Affected

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most curable types of cancer. The number of patients still living five years after diagnosis is 84%. As with other types of cancer, early detection improves outcomes. More than 90% of people with localized Hodgkin’s live 15 or 20 years after treatment.

About 7,000 Americans are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease each year, which represents about 11% of all lymphomas and less than 1% of all cancers. About 117,596 people in the United States have the disease. About 1,400 people will die from Hodgkin’s lymphoma this year.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma most commonly occurs in early adolescence or early adulthood. The number of people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s after age 55 is decreasing. Slightly more men than women develop the disease. It is slightly more common in caucasians than African Americans.

Causes and Complications

The cause of Hodgkin's lymphoma remains unknown. Environmental factors and exposure to certain viruses have been explored. But no clear indication of the cause exists.

Because so many patients live for a long time after receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, doctors have discovered long-term complications associated with the various treatments used to combat the disease. Infertility and lung and heart disease may occur years after receiving chemotherapy drugs. Radiation increases the risk of breast cancer in women younger than 30 at time of treatment. Both chemotherapy and radiation can increase the risk of developing a second type of cancer in the future. Lung and stomach cancers, melanoma, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may occur a decade or longer after completion of treatment for Hodgkin’s disease. Leukemia may develop within the first 10 years after treatment.

This Report Covers the Following:

Risk factors – factors that increase your chances of developing Hodgkin's disease.
Reducing your risk – steps you can take that may help decrease your risk of developing Hodgkin's disease.
Screening – when you don't have symptoms of cancer, screening tests offer a way to determine if you are at risk for or if you have Hodgkin's disease.
Symptoms – changes in your health that should prompt you to see your doctor for further evaluation.
Diagnosis and prognosis – the steps your doctor will take to find out if you have Hodgkin's disease. And if you do have cancer, the testing that will determine how far it has progressed.
Treatment – the goals and options for treatment of Hodgkin's disease.
Living with Hodgkin's disease – one man shares his experiences with Hodgkin's disease.
Talking with your doctor – questions to ask your doctor about your case of Hodgkin's disease.
Resources – places to go for further information on Hodgkin's disease.