Hodgkin's Disease

What is Hodgkin disease?

  • Hodgkin disease is cancer in your lymph nodes and lymphatic system. Your lymph nodes are located throughout your body. They make white blood cells that help fight infection. The lymphatic system acts like a filter to catch germs and get rid of waste from your body. Normal cells in your body split and make more cells when needed. With cancer, your cells grow out of control and form too much tissue called a tumor. These abnormal cells may grow on nearby body organs or tissue. They may also break away from the tumor and cause cancer in other parts of your body.

  • You may have either classical Hodgkin disease or lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin disease. The type and stage of Hodgkin disease may help your caregiver decide what treatment is best for you. The stages of Hodgkin disease include early stage favorable, early stage unfavorable, and advanced stage. The chances of surviving Hodgkin disease are better if it is found and treated early. With treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, your Hodgkin disease may go away for good. You may also feel better and live longer.

What increase the chances of getting Hodgkin disease?

No one knows why people get Hodgkin disease. Some people have risk factors that may make them more likely to get Hodgkin disease. These risk factors include:

  • Family history: Having a parent or sibling with Hodgkin disease increases your risk of Hodgkin disease.

  • Infection: Being infected by a germ called Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may increase your risk of having Hodgkin disease. This germ causes a condition called infectious mononucleosis. Ask your caregiver for more information about EBV and infectious mononucleosis.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hodgkin disease?

You may have any of the following:

  • Lump on your neck or underarm.

  • Fever (high body temperature).

  • Sweating a lot during the night.

  • Weight loss without trying.

  • Fatigue (being tired a lot)

  • Itchy skin (pruritus).

How is Hodgkin disease diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask you about your health history. He will ask you about when your symptoms started. He may also ask you about your family's health. Your caregiver will examine you and feel for lumps on your neck, underarms, or other areas. You may also need any of the following:

  • Lymph node biopsy: A biopsy is done by removing one or more lymph nodes. An excisional biopsy cuts out the lymph node during surgery. A core needle biopsy uses a hollow needle to remove tissue from your lymph node. The cells or nodes will be taken to a lab and tested for cancer. The lab may also determine the type and stage of your cancer.

  • Imaging tests: Caregivers may x-ray your chest to look for tumors. Computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to look for tumors in your lung, heart, and other organs. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan helps your caregiver determine the stage of your cancer.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

How is Hodgkin disease treated?

Hodgkin disease is often treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These treatments can also be used alone or in combination with a stem cell transplant. Ask your caregiver for more information about these treatments.

  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer and keeps the cancer from spreading. It also keeps cancer cells from dividing into new cells, which is one way cancer spreads. Radiation may help decrease pain, control bleeding, and shrink the tumor.

  • Chemotherapy: This medicine, often called "chemo", works by killing tumor cells. Chemotherapy also is used to shrink your lymph nodes. A combination of different chemotherapy medicines is often used to treat Hodgkin disease. ABVD is the name of one group of medicines commonly used. Chemotherapy can have many side effects. Caregivers will watch you closely and will work with you to decrease side effects. Even if the chemotherapy does not cure your cancer, it may help you feel better and live longer.

  • Stem cell transplant: During a stem cell transplant, special blood cells (stem cells) are put into your blood. The stem cells usually go to your bone marrow. The bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue inside your bone. Stem cells grow in the bone marrow and become white blood cells to help fight infection.

What are the risks of having Hodgkin disease treated?

  • Treatment for Hodgkin disease may make you feel more tired than usual. You may get more cavities in your teeth. Having radiation therapy on your neck may cause hypothyroidism, a condition where you have decreased thyroid hormones. Both chemotherapy and radiation may make you feel sick to your stomach. You may also lose some or all of your hair. You may develop problems with your blood, such as a low number of white blood cells. You may become immunosuppressed, which means that your body has more trouble fighting germs than usual. Your cancer may return and you may need treatment again.

  • Serious risks include damage to your lungs and heart. You might also not be able to have children. Some risks of chemotherapy and radiation for Hodgkin disease can cause death. These risks include diseases such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and bacterial sepsis (a blood infection). You may get cancer in other body organs, such as your lungs, skin, or breasts. If Hodgkin disease is left untreated, the cancer may spread to other parts of your body. Your symptoms may worsen and you may die. Ask your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about your disease, treatment, or care.

When should I call my caregiver?

Call your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever (high body temperature).

  • You feel a new lump.

  • You lose weight without trying.

  • You sweat a lot during the night.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain.

  • You have trouble breathing.

Where can I get support and more information?

Having Hodgkin disease may be a life-changing condition for you and your family. You and those close to you may feel scared, angry, or sad. These feelings are normal. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. You may also want to join a support group with other people who have Hodgkin disease. Contact any of the following:

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address: http://www.cancer.org
  • National Cancer Institute
    6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
    Bethesda , MD 20892-8322
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address: http://www.cancer.gov
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Inc.
    1311 Mamaroneck Avenue
    White Plains , NY 10605
    Phone: 1- 914 - 949-5213
    Phone: 1- 800 - 955-4572
    Web Address: http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

Learn more about Hodgkin's Disease