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Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of lymph tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites.

Complications of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Inability to have children (infertility)
  • Liver failure
  • Lung problems
  • Other cancers
  • Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can cause low blood cell counts, which can lead to an increased risk of bleeding, infection, and anemia. To minimize bleeding, apply ice and pressure to any external bleeding. Use a soft toothbrush and electric razor for personal hygiene. Infection should always be taken seriously during cancer treatment. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop fever or other signs of infection. Planning daily activities with scheduled rest periods may help prevent fatigue associated with anemia.

Causes of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • The first sign of this cancer is often an enlarged lymph node which appears without a known cause. The disease can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Later it may spread to the spleen, liver, bone marrow, or other organs.
  • The cause is not known. Hodgkin's lymphoma is most common among people ages 15 - 35 and 50 - 70. Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is thought to contribute to most cases.

Signs & Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma signs and symptoms may include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss — as much as 10 percent or more of your body weight
  • Coughing, trouble breathing or chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching
  • Increased sensitivity to the effects of alcohol or pain in your lymph nodes after drinking alcohol

Diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Because the symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma are similar to those of other disorders, such as influenza, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. Some distinctive characteristics help diagnose Hodgkin's lymphoma, and these include:

  • Orderly spread to lymph nodes. The pattern of spread is orderly, progressing from one group of lymph nodes to the next.
  • Only rare 'skipping' of lymph nodes. The disease rarely skips over an area of lymph nodes as it spreads.

These tests and procedures help diagnose Hodgkin's lymphoma.

  • Biopsy. Taking a tissue sample (biopsy) of an enlarged lymph node is the most common way to make a definite diagnosis. Once a sample is removed, the tissue is examined for malignant cells.
  • Physical exam. Your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes, including in your neck, underarm and groin, as well as a swollen spleen or liver.
  • X-rays. These pictures can reveal swollen lymph nodes in the body.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. This is a series of pictures of the inside of your body, usually the chest, abdomen and pelvis. You usually swallow a dye or it's injected into your veins so that your organs and tissues will show up more clearly.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A device that uses a magnet, radio waves and computer provides your doctor with a series of detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into your vein. Glucose becomes more concentrated around cancerous cells, so when a scanner takes pictures of your body it can reveal where the cancer is located.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. A small amount of bone marrow, blood and bone are removed through a needle and are examined for signs of cancer.
  • Blood tests. A sample of your blood is examined in a lab to see if anything in your blood indicates the possibility of cancer.

Treatments of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Treatment primarily depends on the following:

  • The type of Hodgkin's lymphoma (most people have classic Hodgkin's)
  • The stage (where the disease is found)
  • Whether the tumor is more than 4 inches (10 cm) wide
  • The patient's age and other medical issues
  • Other factors, including weight loss, night sweats, and fever

A staging evaluation is necessary to determine the treatment plan.

  • Stage I indicates one lymph node region is involved (for example, the right neck).
  • Stage II indicates involvement of two lymph node areas on the same side of the diaphragm (for example, both sides of the neck).
  • Stage III indicates lymph node involvement on both sides of the diaphragm (for example, groin and armpit).
  • Stage IV involves the spread of cancer outside the lymph nodes (for example, to bone marrow, lungs, or liver).

Treatment varies with the stage of the disease. The best treatment for an individual patient depends on many factors, and should be discussed with a doctor who has experience treating this disease.

  1. Stages I and II (limited disease) can be treated with local radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of both.
  2. Stages III and IV (extensive disease) are treated with chemotherapy alone or a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

When to seek Medical Advice

These symptoms could be caused by numerous other conditions. But you should see a doctor for diagnosis if:

  • You experience symptoms for more than two weeks.
  • Your symptoms repeatedly go away and then return.

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