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Conditions InDepth: Hodgkin Lymphoma
by Debra Wood, RN and Michael Jubinville, MPH
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Cancer is a disease in which cells grow in an abnormal way. Normally, new cells develop in a controlled manner to replace old or damaged cells. With lymphoma, certain cells of the lymph system develop abnormally and grow at an abnormal rate. The lymph system is part of the immune system that helps fight off infections and illnesses. Hodgkin lymphoma can make the body more vulnerable to other illnesses and infections.
Normal Anatomy and the Development of Hodgkin Lymphoma
All blood cells start as stem cells in the bone marrow. Stem cells then mature into a variety of different blood cell types that have specific functions in the body. Hodgkin lymphoma is an abnormality with a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are different types of lymphocytes, but the main types are:
The lymphatic system is a network of fluid, vessels, organs, and lymph nodes throughout the body. The network carries fluids and immune cells. Lymphoid tissues and organs include:
Lymphatic tissue can also be found throughout the body in the digestive tract, nervous system, and skin.
With Hodgkin lymphoma, there is an excessive development of B-cell lymphocytes. These cancerous cells are also abnormal and not able to carry out normal function of B-cells. The abnormal lymphocytes can also crowd out healthy cells in the lymph nodes, decreasing the number of effective cells and weakening the immune system. Cancerous blood cells also circulate in the blood and lymph systems and can gather in organs like the spleen, bone marrow, lungs, and liver.
Types of Lymphoma
There are 2 types of Hodgkin lymphoma based on their appearance under a microscope:
In general, Hodgkin lymphoma is rare, but it is treatable and has a high cure rate.
What are the risk factors for Hodgkin disease?
What are the symptoms of Hodgkin disease?
How is Hodgkin disease diagnosed?
What are the treatments for Hodgkin disease?
Are there screening tests for Hodgkin disease?
How can I reduce my risk of Hodgkin disease?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with Hodgkin disease?
Where can I get more information about Hodgkin disease?
Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Updated April 12, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at:
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Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/hodgkin-lymphoma. Updated October 2012. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114957/Hodgkin-lymphoma-HL. Updated November 22, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
What is Hodgkin lymphoma? American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkin-lymphoma/about/what-is-hodgkin-disease.html. Updated March 28, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/29/2016
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