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Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The two major types of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma begins in cells of the immune system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and includes the lymph vessels, lymph, and lymph nodes. Since lymphatic tissue is in many parts of the body, Hodgkin’s lymphoma can start almost anywhere. Usually, it’s first found in a lymph node above the diaphragm, but may also be found in a group of lymph nodes.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma begins when a lymphocyte becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell divides to make copies of itself. Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells are called Reed-Sternberg cells. These cells don’t protect the body from infections or other diseases, and also don’t die when they should. The lymph node that contains the Reed-Sternberg cells becomes enlarged, and the abnormal cells can spread throughout the body.

It is unknown why one person develops this and another does not, but there are certain risk factors that increase the chance that a person will develop the disease. These include certain viruses, weakened immune system, age and family history. Hodgkin’s lymphoma can cause many symptoms also. Symptoms consist of swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, or groin, becoming more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, having painful lymph nodes after drinking alcohol, weight loss for no known reason, fever that does not go away, soaking night sweats, itchy skin, coughing, trouble breathing, chest pain, and weakness and tiredness that don’t go away.

Upon visiting with your physician about your symptoms you may also have a physical exam, blood tests, chest x-rays, and biopsy. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is done by removal of entire lymph node or part of lymph node. A pathologist checks the tissue under microscope for Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells. This helps determine the type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma either classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma which most people have that show Reed-Sternberg cells. The nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rare and the abnormal cell is called a popcorn cell.

In order to come up with the best treatment plan the doctor needs to know the stage of the disease. To find out what parts of the body are affected by the disease additional testing may need to be done involving CT scan, MRI, PET scan, and bone marrow biopsy may be done. Upon final test results a treatment plan will be determined by you and your healthcare team and will be determined mainly on the type of your Hodgkin’s lymphoma, its stage, whether you have a mass or tumor that is more than 4 inches wide, age, and if you’ve had weight loss, drenching night sweats, or fever. People with Hodgkin’s lymphoma may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both which will be discussed to you by your healthcare provider.

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