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What is Hodgkin's Lymphoma?

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Updated June 24, 2014

Doctor examining patient
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A cancer of the lymph nodes:

Hodgkin's lymphoma (also called Hodgkin's disease) is one of the two main types of lymphoma. A lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system. To understand lymphomas and the lymph system better, read the article What is lymphoma?. Hodgkin lymphoma affects more than 8000 people annually in the United States.

How did it get its name?:

Hodgkin's disease is named after Thomas Hodgkin, a remarkable doctor who worked at the Guys Hospital in London in the first part of the nineteenth century. Among his many achievements was to recognize this condition as a unique disease and not an infection as most people thought it was. A few decades later, other experts gave the disease its name to honor his contribution.

Symptoms of Hodgkin's Lymphoma:

Hodgkin's lymphoma commonly affects young people. The commonest symptom is enlarged lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are enlarged in the neck, armpits, groin or within the chest. Apart from enlarged nodes, those with lymphoma may have weight loss, fever, itching and drenchin sweats at night. Too find out more about lymphoma symptoms - read the article Signs and Symptoms of Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

How is Hodgkin's identified?:

Hodgkin's lymphoma is identified from a lymph node biopsy. What helps the pathologist looking at the node under the microscope to identify Hodgkin disease is the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cell. This is the cancer cell of Hodgkin disease and it looks rather like an owl under the microscope. When these cells are present, the pathologist can differentiate Hodgkin from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other benign conditions.

The pathologist also identifies the type of this lymphoma. There are 4 types of Hodgkin's lymphoma, and they are often quite different in terms of prognosis and treatment options.

What happens after Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis?:

After Hodgkin's is diagnosed from the lymph node biopsy, a series of tests are performed for lymphoma staging and prognostic factors. Patients are then treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both treatments. See the article on Treatment Options for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Many of these individuals are diagnosed while their disease is in an early stage and are cured. Even with advanced disease, effective long term control can often be possible.

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