Hodgkin Disease

What is Hodgkin disease?

Hodgkin disease is a type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2010 about 8,490 new cases will be diagnosed. About 10 percent to 15 percent of cases are found in children and teenagers.

Hodgkin disease causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection. Hodgkin disease cells can also spread to other organs.

What are the symptoms of Hodgkin disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of Hodgkin disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes in neck, underarm, and/or groin
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Itching of the skin

The symptoms of Hodgkin disease may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems, such as influenza or other infections. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What are the risk factors for Hodgkin disease?

Suggested risk factors for Hodgkin disease include the following:

  • Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus
    Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis (also called "mono") has been linked to Hodgkin disease.
  • Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 
    People infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are at higher risk for Hodgkin disease.
  • Age
    Hodgkin disease occurs most often in people between ages 15 and 40, and in people over the age of 55.
  • Gender
    Hodgkin disease is more common in men than in women.
  • Family history
    Brothers and sisters of those with Hodgkin disease have a higher-than-average chance of developing this disease.

How is Hodgkin disease diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Hodgkin disease may include the following:

  • Blood tests
  • X-ray of the chest - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • Computed tomography (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than standard x-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan - a type of nuclear medicine procedure. For this rest, a radioactive sugar is injected into the bloodstream. Because cancer cells use more of the sugar than normal cells, the radioactivity tends to collect in them, and can be detected with a special camera. A PET scan image is not finely detailed like a CT scan, but it can sometimes spot cancer cells in different areas of the body even when they can't be seen by other tests. This test is often used in combination with a CT scan. 
  • Lymph node biopsy - a procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope. A biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis of Hodgkin disease and to tell what type it is.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy - a procedure that involves taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (called a core biopsy), ususally from the hip bones, to be examined for the number, size, and maturity of blood cells and/or abnormal cells. This test may be used to see if cancer cells have reached the bone marrow.

Treatment for Hodgkin disease:

Specific treatment for Hodgkin disease will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • The type of Hodgkin disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • High-dose chemotherapy/radiotherapy with bone marrow or peripheral stem cell transplantation

Learn More About Sharp
Sharp HealthCare is San Diego's health care leader with seven hospitals, two medical groups and a health plan. Learn more about our San Diego hospitals, choose a Sharp-affiliated San Diego doctor or browse our comprehensive medical services.