Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Book an Appointment

Overview

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Hodgkin lymphoma, which used to be called Hodgkin’s disease, is 1 of many types of lymphoma. Lymphoma begins when healthy cells in the lymphatic system change and grow out of control. This uncontrolled growth may form a tumor, involve many parts of the lymphatic system, or spread to other parts of the body.


Hodgkin lymphoma most commonly affects lymph nodes in the neck or in the area between the lungs and behind the breastbone. It can also begin in groups of lymph nodes under an arm, in the groin, or in the abdomen or pelvis.


If Hodgkin lymphoma spreads, the most common locations where it spreads are the lung, spleen, liver, bone marrow, or bone. Hodgkin lymphoma can spread to other parts of the body, but this is unusual.

Symptoms

Painless swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin.

Persistent fatigue.

Fever.

Night sweats.

Losing weight without trying.

Severe itching.

Pain in your lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.

Causes

Hodgkin lymphoma is caused by a change (mutation) in the DNA of a type of white blood cell called B lymphocytes. The exact reason why this happens isn't known.


The DNA gives the cells a basic set of instructions, such as when to grow and reproduce. The mutation in the DNA changes these instructions so the cells keep growing, causing them to multiply uncontrollably.


The abnormal lymphocytes usually begin to multiply in one or more lymph nodes in a particular area of the body, such as your neck or groin. Over time, it's possible for the abnormal lymphocytes to spread into other parts of your body, such as your:


bone marrow

spleen

liver

skin

lungs


Risk factors

While the cause of the initial mutation that triggers Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown, a number of factors can increase your risk of developing the condition. These include:


age and gender – anyone can get Hodgkin lymphoma but it's more common in people aged 20 to 40 or over 75; it also affects slightly more men than women

having a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as HIV

having medical treatment that weakens your immune system – for example, taking medicine to suppress your immune system after an organ transplant

being previously exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – a common virus that causes glandular fever

having previously had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, possibly because of treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy

being very overweight (obese) – this may be more of a risk factor in women than men

smoking


Calendar Schedule

Have a medical question?

We are available to help you with all your questions and concerns.

Complications

Some people treated for Hodgkin lymphoma experience long-term problems, even if they've been cured.


Weakened immune system

Having a weakened immune system is a common complication of Hodgkin lymphoma and it can become more severe while you're being treated.


If you have a weak immune system, you're more vulnerable to infections and there's an increased risk of developing serious complications from infections.


Sometimes, you may be advised to take regular doses of antibiotics to prevent infections.


It's also important to report any symptoms of an infection to your GP or care team immediately, as prompt treatment may be needed to prevent serious complications.


Symptoms of infection include:


a high temperature (fever)

headache

aching muscles

diarrhoea

tiredness


Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Most people with NHL have no risk factors that can be changed, so there is no way to protect against these lymphomas.