In this article, you’ll get everything you need to know about Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system that affects the lymph nodes. The lymphatic system consists of lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels and organs. It has a role in fighting infections and pathogens that enter the body. Current statistics show that an estimated 8,110 individuals will present with this type of cancer this year in the US. Likewise, around 1,000 people will die from Hodgkin lymphoma in 2019. The disease can affect both adults and children. However, it is more common in young adults or people older than 55 years old. The 5-year survival rate of Hodgkin lymphoma is 87%. The survival rate expresses that 87 out of 100 people with the disease will be alive within 5 years.
What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that presents in the lymph nodes. It consists of the development of lymphoma due to the uncontrolled growth of the cells of the lymph nodes. It usually forms a tumor in the neck, chest, or behind the sternum (breastbone), and can quickly spread to other parts of the body. There are two major categories of Hodgkin lymphoma; the classic one and the nodular lymphocyte-predominant one. However, each class has several other types.
What are the risk factors of Hodgkin lymphoma?
A risk factor is any parameter that can increase a person’s chances of developing a disease. In this case, scientists are not sure regarding the exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma. However, they know which risk factors will put you at high risk or predisposition for the disease. The following are some of the most well-established parameters that would most probably increase your chances of receiving a definite diagnosis for Hodgkin lymphoma.
The most common age groups in whom Hodgkin lymphoma appears is in people 15 to 40 years old, and in those older than 55.
Men are more likely to develop the disease when compared with women.
- Family history
Individuals with a family history of Hodgkin lymphoma have slightly more chances to develop the disease.
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
EBV exposure that leads to infectious mononucleosis can predispose people to Hodgkin lymphoma.
- HIV infection
HIV infection increases your risk of developing lymphocyte-dependent Hodgkin lymphoma.
What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?
It is not clear what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. However, in people with the disease, there are changes in the DNA of the cells of their B lymphocytes. This change or mutation is responsible for the uncontrolled growth of the cells. Therefore, leading to the formation of a tumor. For these mutations to occur, risk factors play a significant role.
What are the signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?
Hodgkin lymphoma may present with symptoms, or it may be initially asymptomatic. Sometimes, another medical condition may be responsible for the appearance of these signs and symptoms. When present, Hodgkin lymphoma may present with some of the following symptoms:
- A painless lump in the neck, armpit, or groin
- Unexplained weight loss and fever
- Night sweats and pruritus
- Unexplained fatigue or weakness
- Dyspnea or chest discomfort
- Lymph node pain after consuming alcohol
- In the presence of symptoms, your doctor might stage you as type A or B. A means that you didn’t experience B symptoms. B symptoms may be at least one of the following:
- Unexplained weight loss of at least 10% of your body weight during the 6 months before your definite diagnosis
- Unexplained pyrexia (fever) greater than 38 degrees Celsius
- Heavy night sweats
After the diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, relieving the symptoms is essential. This procedure is known as palliative or supportive treatment. This treatment is not therapeutic, but it accompanies the definitive treatment throughout its course.
How do you diagnose Hodgkin lymphoma?
Initially, your doctor will ask questions about your history. Following that, you may undergo a physical examination. To help diagnose Hodgkin lymphoma, you might need a biopsy. With the biopsy, your doctor will obtain some of the suspicious tissue to establish whether it is cancer. After performing these clinical and paraclinical investigations to diagnose the disease, you will need to undergo some further examinations to ascertain the current state and spread of the tumor. Therefore, your physician will recommend blood tests along with imaging ones. The latter might be some of the following:
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Evaluation of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems
Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment
According to your health and stage of the disease, your doctor will let you know of the possible treatment options and recommendations available for you. You will choose together a suitable treatment plan for you based on the disease itself and its properties, and the side effects. Therapies using oral drugs are chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Most doctors suggest first-line chemotherapy for newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma, followed or not by second-line chemotherapy. Radiation therapy and bone marrow transplantation are also therapeutic options. Generally, doctors suggest that cancer patients take some psychological help too.
Hodgkin Lymphoma Prevention
Nobody knows what exactly causes Hodgkin lymphoma. However, scientists are aware of the potential dangers that risk factors can pose. Therefore, the only accurate preventive strategy is to avoid risk factors and maintain an anti-cancer lifestyle. Some substances and behaviors are carcinogenic, while others promote health and wellness. Eating healthy and exercising regularly will potentially help you prevent not only Hodgkin lymphoma but many types of cancer. Finally, don’t forget that regular screening will always bring you one step forward when it comes to early diagnosis.