Hodgkin lymphoma is the cancer that arises from the cells of the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is the part of the immune system and is composed of lymph vessels, lymph and lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is also comprised of the spleen, thymus gland, bone marrow and tonsils. However, lymphoid tissue is found in many organs such as the stomach, skin, liver and small intestine. Because of this Hodgkin lymphoma may originate from almost any site of the body although it most commonly begins in a lymph node above the diaphragm.
Hodgkin Lymphoma Overview
Hodgkin lymphoma starts in white blood cells known as lymphocytes. This type of cancer occurs when B cells start growing and dividing abnormally. These abnormal B cells are termed as the Reed-Sternberg cells. These cells do not undergo normal life and death cycle but keep multiplying leading to formation of tumor.
The cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown but scientists believe that infection with Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk for the cancer. Hodgkin lymphoma usually affects young adults, aged between 15 and 35 years or individuals over 55 years of age.
Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by painless enlargement of the lymph nodes, fatigue, night sweats, fever and chills. Loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and itchy skin are also associated with Hodgkin lymphoma. The cancer can also cause excessive sweating, blushing, enlargement of the spleen and/or liver and pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.
Staging of Hodgkin Lymphoma
Treatment options for Hodgkin lymphoma are determined by the stage of the cancer. The disease can be classified into four stages depending on the affected areas of the body. There are different tests and procedures that can help to determine stage of the cancer. This includes blood tests, chest X-ray, CT and MRI scans of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, PET scan and bone marrow biopsy. Staging of Hodgkin lymphoma helps to determine the extent of the cancer. This includes the number of the lymph nodes involved, whether these lymph nodes are on one or both sides of the diaphragm and whether the cancer has spread outside the lymph nodes.
There are four stages of Hodgkin lymphoma:
- Stage I indicates only a group of lymph nodes is affected or the cancer is confined to a single organ.
- Stage II means the disease involves two lymph node groups on one side of the diaphragm.
- Stage III involves presence of cancerous cells in lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm.
- Stage IV indicates the spread of the cancer to many organs and tissues.