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Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections. The lymphatic system also helps maintain the fluid balance in different parts of the body by bringing excess fluid back into the bloodstream.
The lymphatic system includes the following:
Hodgkin lymphoma causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection and causing swelling in the lymph nodes. Hodgkin lymphoma cells can also spread (metastasize) to other organs and tissue. It is a rare disease, accounting for about 4 percent of all cases of childhood cancer in the US. Hodgkin lymphoma occurs most often in people between the ages of 15 and 40, and in people over age 55. About 10 percent to 15 percent of cases are found in children and teenagers. The disease, for unknown reasons, affects males more often than females.
The specific cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. It is possible that a genetic predisposition and exposure to viral infections may increase the risk for developing Hodgkin lymphoma. There is a slightly increased chance for Hodgkin lymphoma to occur in siblings of patients.
There has been much investigation into the association of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes the infection mononucleosis. This virus has been correlated with a greater incidence of children diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, although the direct link is unknown.
There are many individuals, however, who have infections related to EBV that do not develop Hodgkin disease.
The following are the most common symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Hodgkin lymphoma may include:
Staging is the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. There are various staging systems that are used for Hodgkin lymphoma. Always consult your child's physician for information on staging. One method of staging Hodgkin lymphoma is the following:
Stages are also noted by the presence or absence of certain symptoms of the disease:
For example, stage IIIB is disease that is symptomatic, involves lymph node regions or structures on both sides of the body, and is further classified depending on the organs and areas involved .
Specific treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Treatment may include (alone or in combination):
Aggressive therapy, while increasing long-term survival, also carries some serious side effects. Discuss with your child's physician a complete list of known side effects for treatment plans and therapies.
Prognosis greatly depends on:
As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Every child is unique and treatment and prognosis is structured around the child. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for the child diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, including second cancers, can occur in survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma. New methods are continually being discovered to improve treatment and to decrease side effects.