What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that circulate throughout the blood and bone marrow. White blood cells are responsible for controlling a person's immune system and fighting off infections.

Lymphocytes are commonly found within the main part of the body's "drainage" system called lymph nodes, as well as in other kinds of body tissue. Therefore, many people diagnosed with lymphoma will have the disease in more than one area of the body.

Hodgkin lymphoma differs from non-Hodgkin lymphoma because it has a specific kind of abnormal lymphocyte called a Reed-Sternberg cell. However, Reed-Sternberg cells make up only a small part of a Hodgkin lymphoma tumor, and the rest of the tumor is made of normal lymphocytes, which can cause inflammation.

If your doctor suspects you have Hodgkin lymphoma, he or she will recommend a surgical biopsy rather than a needle biopsy to make a diagnosis. This is because the characteristic Reed-Sternberg cells may be missed within a smaller tissue sample.

There are approximately 7,800 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed in the United States each year.

Symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma

The most common sign of Hodgkin lymphoma is enlarged lymph nodes. However, swollen lymph nodes are not specific to Hodgkin lymphoma. Swollen lymph nodes can occur in other kinds of lymphoma, other cancers or inflammatory diseases with infections.

Other signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Low energy level
  • Cough or shortness of breath

Other Names for Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is also known as Hodgkin's disease, although it is more accurate to refer to as Hodgkin lymphoma.