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Hodgkin's Lymphoma

In Hodgkin's lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As the condition progresses, it compromises your body's ability to fight infection and symptoms appear. Many symptoms may be similar to those of the flu, such as fever, fatigue and night sweats. Eventually, tumors develop.

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a rare type of lymphoma, accounting for less than 1 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. It usually affects people between the ages of 15 to 35 and those older than 55.

Symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma may include the following:

  • A painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm or groin
  • Unexplained recurrent fevers
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchy skin

However, these symptoms are not sure signs of Hodgkin's lymphoma. In most cases, they are caused by other, less serious conditions such as the flu. That said, when symptoms like these persist, it is important to see a doctor so that any illness can be diagnosed and treated. Only a doctor can diagnose Hodgkin's lymphoma.

If Hodgkin's lymphoma is suspected, the doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam to check general signs of health. The exam includes feeling all the lymph nodes and feeling if the liver or spleen is enlarged. In addition, the doctor may order blood tests.

The doctor also may recommend tests that produce pictures of the inside of the body, such as:

  • X-Rays — High-energy radiation is used to take pictures of areas inside the body, such as the chest, bones, liver and spleen.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan — A CT scan uses a thin X-Ray beam that rotates around the area being examined. A computer processes data to construct a three-dimensional, cross-sectional image.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — An MRI provides detailed pictures of areas inside the body that are produced with a powerful magnet linked to a computer.

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Treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma depends on the stage of the disease, the size of the enlarged lymph nodes, the symptoms that are present, the age and general health of the patient, and other factors.

Patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma undergo an extensive evaluation that may include:

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma, although bone marrow transplantation, peripheral stem cell transplantation and biological therapies are currently being studied in clinical trials.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.