What is Hodgkin's lymphoma?
Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) is a form of lymphoma and is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The other form is known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Around 20 percent of lymphoma cases diagnosed in the UK are Hodgkin's lymphoma, with over 1,500 cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosed in the UK every year. Hodgkin's lymphoma can only be told apart from non-Hodgkin lymphoma when the cells are seen under a microscope. In most people with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell is found, which is not present in people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
What causes Hodgkin's lymphoma?
The cause of Hodgkin's lymphoma is unknown and in many cases individuals who are diagnosed do not have any risk factors. However, some risk factors have recently been identified, which include:
- Weakened immune system: people who have a weakened immune system as a result of transplant surgery, HIV or inherited disorders have a elevated chance of developing HL
- Previous exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (virus causes glandular fever)
- Age: Hodgkin's lymphoma is more commonly found in younger people but it can affect people of different ages
Symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma
The first symptom present is usually swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, groin and neck. In most cases these are painless, but some people may find that they ache. Other symptoms associated with HL include:
- Sweating, especially during the night
- Unexplained weight loss
- Persistent itching
- Fever (high temperature)
How is Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosed?
When you visit your GP they will ask you about relevant symptoms and carry out an examination. If they think you may have HL they will refer you to a specialist for additional tests, which will typically include X-rays, blood tests and biopsies. The results of all the tests will be used to confirm a diagnosis and your treatment map will be created.
How is Hodgkin's lymphoma treated?
The most used treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your treatment plan is based on several factors, including your age, your general health and how far developed the cancer is. You will be treated by a multi-disciplinary team, which is comprised of many different health professionals.
What is the outlook for people with Hodgkin's lymphoma?
The outlook for Hodgkin's lymphoma is positive and in many cases it can be treated very effectively. More than 80 percent of people will survive for at least five years following initial diagnosis.
Living with Hodgkin's lymphoma
Living with Hodgkin's lymphoma can be very difficult and it may take you a long time to come to terms with your diagnosis. You will probably experience a mixture of emotions and will find it difficult to talk to people close to you, especially if you are worried that you will frighten or upset them. Your care team will cater for every facet of your care, but if you would appreciate a caring ear, further details or additional support you can contact a UK cancer charity.