There is a part of the immune system called the lymphatic system. This system helps rid your body of toxins and waste. The lymphatic system has a fluid called lymph that travels through the body containing white blood cells that fight infections. The white blood cells in the lymphatic system are called lymphocytes. When you have a genetic mutation of the lymphocytes that make these cells grow abnormally and multiply rapidly it can be the start of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates from the lymphocytes. There are less than 200,000 cases of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma per year reported. No one knows what causes Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but it is treatable when caught in enough time. There is another type of lymphoma that is called non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Anyone can be at risk for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but people between the ages of 15-30 and over 55 are more at risk. Other risk factors are if you have a family history of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you have someone in your family who has had it it can make you more at risk. Males are more at risk than women, though women can still get Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you have had a past Epstein Barr infection it can increase the likelihood of you getting Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well, such as having an infectious mononucleosis, heightens your chances more than someone who hasn’t suffered from one of those infections.
There are different subtypes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The most common one is Classical Hodgkin’s. The second most common type is Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This type is most common in teens and young adults. It accounts for about 7 out of every 10 cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Another subtype is called Mixed Cellularity Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is seen in children and the elderly and people who have HIV. This type isn’t as common but it is the second most common subtype following after Nodular Sclerosis. A third type of Hodgkin’s is Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is most common in elderly people and people with HIV. It is very aggressive, and usually very advanced once it has been diagnosed. It is usually found in lymph nodes found in you abdomen. The rarest type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin’s which usually has no large masses like the other types. Once you have seen your doctor they will be able to diagnose what type you have to know how to continue on with your treatment.
Symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the same regardless of what type you have. You may experience just some of the symptoms or all of them. Some types of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are less symptomatic. One of the main symptoms is painless swelling of your lymph nodes. Usually in your neck, armpits, or groin lymph nodes. These are the most noticeable to see the swelling. Another symptom is persistent fatigue. Others include fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, and severe itching. If you experience any of these over a period of time you should go see your doctor.
Once at the doctor your doctor may want to do a series of different things to diagnose you. Your doctor will probably start with a physical exam. This is when they will find out if any of your lymph nodes are swollen. They can physically feel on your neck or armpits to feel if your lymph nodes are swollen. Your doctor may also call for a blood test. The blood test will determine if you have cancer in your system. If there is a chance of the cancer being in other parts of your body you doctor may want to order an imaging test to look at your lymph nodes in your stomach or other places that can’t visibly been seen if they are affected. Also the imaging test will be able to see if the cancer has spread to other organs. If your lymph nodes do end up being swollen your doctor may want to take a biopsy of your lymph node to send out for testing. In other cases your doctor may want to do a bone marrow sample as well. There are lots of ways to diagnose Hodkin’s lymphoma and once you have been diagnosed, your doctor should know what type you have which will then lead to your treatment plan.
There are four stages of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Stage I- is when only one lymph node or one organ is cancerous
Stage II- is when you have two lymph nodes affected, or one lymph node and a nearby organ. The cancer is still only in one area of your body still.
Stage III- the cancer has spread to lymph nodes below and above the diaphragm, for example cancer found in the neck lymph node and groin lymph node.
Stage IV- this is the most advanced stage. It means the cancer has spread all over and has spread to other parts of the body such as liver, lungs or bones.
Once you know what stage and type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma you have, you can start treatment. Treatment is started usually immediately after diagnosis. Your doctor will pick what treatment is best for you with your type and stage. Treatment can include Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, or a bone marrow transplant. You may only have to do one of these or your doctor may prescribe for you to undergo a mixture of two of the treatments depending on how aggressive the cancer is.
The survival rate of Stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 93%. And the survival rate of State IV is 73%. Those percentages are high for survival. Just make sure you talk to your doctor if you are feeling any of the symptoms. The earlier you get diagnosed the faster treatment can happen and the quicker they can catch the cancer before it gets worse. Hodgkin’s lymphoma can affect anyone, but once diagnosed can be treated.