Hodgkin’s disease, also referred to as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is a cancer of the immune system.
Both Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are cancers that start in cells called lymphocytes. Only Hodgkin’s lymphoma is referred to as Hodgkin’s disease.
Hodgkin’s disease is determined by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cell in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and/or bone marrow. This cell may also spread to the lungs or liver.
Hodgkin’s disease (or Hodgkin’s lymphoma) is named are British physician Thomas Hodgkin who discovered distinguishable characteristics of this disease in 1832.
The classifications for Hodgkin’s disease fall into two categories that are differentiated by how the cells look under a microscope. Classic Hodgkin’s disease accounts for approximately 95% of all cases of Hodgkin’s disease and has four subtypes:
- Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s disease (60-80% of cases)
- Mixed cellularity Hodgkin’s disease (15-30% of cases)
- Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin’s disease (5% of cases)
- Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin’s disease (1% of cases)
These four types have in common the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cells.
Alternately, there is another type of Hodgkin’s disease called Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s disease, which accounts for approximately 5% of all cases. This type contains cells called popcorn cells, which are a variation of the Reed-Sternberg cells.
As with all cancers, it is suggested to confirm specific diagnoses and treatment plans with your health care team.
Signs and Symptoms
Hodgkin’s lymphoma produces symptoms that are similar to those produced by the flu or a common cold. In late-stage Hodgkin’s disease, tumors may develop.
Common signs and symptoms may include:
- Fever and Chills
- Night Sweats
- Fatigue: Persistent feelings of tiredness or exhaustion
- Swelling of Lymph Nodes: Commonly occurs in the neck, armpits, and/or groin
- Weight Loss: Losing up to 10% of your body weight may indicate Hodgkin’s disease.
- Loss of Appetite
If symptoms indicate Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a doctor will recommend a series of tests and examinations to confirm the presence of this disease:
- Personal Family Medical History Exam: A thorough analysis of you and your family’s medical history will reveal your Hodgkin’s disease risk.
- Physical Exam: A basic physical exam will a allow physician to detect any enlarged lymph nodes.
- Biopsy: In this procedure, an incision is made through which an entire lymph node is removed. The lymph node is then sent to a laboratory for microscopic evaluation. In some cases, tissues can be extracted with a simple needle and syringe.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT scan), x-ray, ultrasound, and positron emission tomography (PET scan) are used to observe the inner workings of the human body. These tests are used uncover the presence of tumors or any anomalous internal body structures.
The goal of Hodgkin lymphoma treatment is to kill as many malignant (cancer) cells as possible. Treating this disease, as with all cancers, depends on the disease’s stage, time of diagnosis, patient age, and overall patient health.
Radiotherapy, or radiation therapy, is the use of ionizing radiation beams to kill malignant cells. This treatment option is primarily reserved for low-stage cancer patients with localized malignancies. Typically, radiation therapy is used in conjunction with chemotherapy. In late-stage patients, the use of radiation in conjunction with other treatments may create a more complete and curative treatment strategy.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemical agents (drugs) to kill malignant cells. This treatment option appropriately addresses cancers that have metastasized throughout the body. The chemicals used in chemotherapy to kill cancer cells can also kill healthy cells. This is why chemotherapy is associated with such a vast array of negative side effects. Despite these potentially severe effects, chemo is the treatment of choice for many Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients.
Bone Marrow Transplant
Chemotherapy destroys bone marrow cells. As a result, your own healthy bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells are collected prior to chemo treatment. These cells are frozen to be protected from the effects of chemotherapy. Following chemotherapy, the bone marrow or peripheral blood cells are injected back into your body.
A patient’s outlook depends on the time of diagnosis, as well as their age and overall health. Stage I and II Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients face a 95% five-year survival rate. Late-state patients face a 60 to 70% five-year survival rate.
Most Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients have no known risk factors. As a result, it can be very difficult to prevent this disease. Taking steps to avoid to contraction of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted viruses may help reduce your lymphoma risk. This may include the practice of safe sex, abstinence, and/or the use of clean needles for the administration of medications and controlled substances.