Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a series of tubes and nodes that run through the body. It contains a fluid that helps fight infections and moves waste out of the body.

This cancer starts in a type of lymph cell called a lymphocyte. These cells spread throughout the lymph system. Over time, the cells will make it harder for a child's body to fight infections.

The Lymphatic System

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The exact cause is not known. It may be a mix of genetics and an abnormal response to infection.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in males. It is rare in children under 5 years of age. It is more common in people between the ages of 15 and 34 years, or over 55 years. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • History of mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • Family history of Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Having a weakened immune system from problems such as HIV/AIDS


A child may have:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, groin, or chest
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Night sweating
  • Itchy skin


You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the lymph nodes.

Blood tests may be done to look for signs of cancer.

Fluid and tissue samples may be taken to look for signs of cancer. This can be done with:

Your child's body structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:


Treatment depends on the stage of the disease. The stage is determined by how far the cancer has spread and what organs are affected.

Choices are:

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. With radiation therapy, radiation is aimed at a specific area to kill the cancer cells. Some children may have both chemotherapy and radiation.


Surgery may be done to remove an affected lymph node.


Treatment and the cancer itself can damage blood and lymph cells. Transplantation will help the body rebuild these cells. Choices are:

  • Bone marrow transplantation —Bone marrow is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein. Bone marrow from a healthy donor is also sometimes used.
  • Peripheral blood stem cell transplantation—Stem cells are removed from the blood before chemotherapy or radiation treatment. After treatment is done, the stem cells are then placed back into the blood.


There are no current guidelines to prevent Hodgkin lymphoma. The cause is not known.


American Cancer Society

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society


Canadian Cancer Society

Lymphoma Foundation Canada


Hodgkin lymphoma. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website. Available at: Accessed September 21, 2020.

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 21, 2020.

Shanbhag S, Ambinder RF. Hodgkin lymphoma: A review and update on recent progress. CA Cancer J Clin. 2018 Mar;68(2):116-132.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 9/21/2020