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Hodgkin Lymphoma

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma, or Hodgkin disease, is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system contains lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and glands. Lymph vessels carry lymph fluid throughout the body. Lymph fluid contains lymphocytes (white blood cells) that help fight infection and disease. Hodgkin lymphoma causes lymphocytes to grow and divide without control and to form tumors. Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in any lymph tissue in the body. Common places are lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, and chest. Cancer cells can travel from lymph node to lymph node and spread through the body.

What increases my risk for Hodgkin lymphoma?

  • A family history of Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Infections caused by viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or HIV
  • Health conditions that affect your immune system, such as an autoimmune disease

What are the signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?

  • Swollen lymph node in your neck or underarm
  • Fever, night sweats, or itchy skin
  • Weight loss you cannot explain, loss of appetite, or fatigue
  • A cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain

How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they began. Tell the provider if you ever had an infection such as EBV. Tell the provider if you have a family history of lymphoma or other cancers. The following tests may be used to diagnose Hodgkin lymphoma or to find out if it is early stage or later stage:

  • Blood tests may show abnormal white blood cells or signs of anemia (not enough red blood cells). The tests may also be used to measure the amount of inflammation in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check your liver and kidney function, or see if the cancer has spread to bone.
  • A biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of lymph node or bone marrow to be tested. Bone marrow is tissue inside the bone. Your healthcare provider may test a bone marrow sample to see if the cancer has spread to bone. The provider may use a needle to take a sample from a lymph node, or remove a lymph node during surgery. Biopsy samples will also be checked for Reed-Sternberg cells. These cells help your provider know you have Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • X-ray, CT, MRI, or PET scan pictures may be taken of your chest, abdomen, and pelvis. The pictures may show where the cancer is located. Your healthcare provider may use the x-rays to look for tumors, blockages, signs of infection, or other problems. You may be given contrast liquid to help the cancer show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is Hodgkin lymphoma treated?

  • Chemotherapy is medicine used to treat cancer by killing tumor cells. Chemotherapy may also be used to shrink lymph nodes that contain cancer.
  • Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells and may stop the cancer from spreading. It may be given alone or with chemotherapy.
  • A bone marrow transplant is a procedure to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy marrow. You are usually given bone marrow from a donor. Sometimes your own marrow may be used if it is collected when your cancer is in remission (not active). The bone marrow transplant is given to you in an IV while you are in the hospital.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to care for myself?

  • Rest as needed. Return to activities slowly, and do more as you feel stronger.
  • Eat healthy foods. Eat a variety of healthy foods to get the protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients your body needs. You may need to change the foods you eat depending on your treatments and side effects. You may also need to eat more calories than usual. Work with a dietitian to plan the best meals and snacks for you. Ask if you should take vitamins.
  • Do not smoke. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help quitting. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information before you use these products.
  • Avoid people who have a cold or the flu. Also try to stay away from large groups of people to decrease your risk.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have sudden chest pain.
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You feel a new lump.
  • Your bones or muscles hurt.
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep any food or liquids down.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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Learn more about Hodgkin Lymphoma

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.