by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Hodgkins lymphoma or Hodgkins disease is a form of cancer that originates is the lymph system which is part of the immune system, as opposed to the non-Hodgkins lymphomas which originate in the blood. Both affect some form of white blood cell. Hodgkins lymphoma tends to occur more frequently in two different age groups, 15-35 years of age and over 55 years of age. People with a family history of either Hodgkins lymphoma or non-Hodgkins lymphoma have a higher risk of developing Hodgkins lymphoma. Researchers have also discovered that people with a history of the Epstein-Barr virus have a greater chance of developing Hodgkin lymphoma than those who don’t. If you already have a severely impaired immune system like with HIV/AIDS or post organ transplant your risk of developing Hodgkins lymphoma is higher. Hodgkins lymphoma is not nearly as prevalent as non-Hodgkins lymphoma making up only 1% of all cancers.
Hodgkins lymphoma occurs when one of the white blood cells becomes mutated. The mutated cell is known as a Reed Sternberg cell. These mutated cells then divide repeatedly creating large amounts of mutated cells. These cells do not die when they are supposed to nor do they protect against infections, they frequently build up and form a mass known as a tumor.
Hodgkins lymphoma has been classified into four different sub-types.
1. Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkins lymphoma is the most commonly diagnosed type of Hodgkins lymphoma.
2. Mixed Cellularity is also common and is most often associated with the Epstein-Barr virus.
3. Lymphocyte – rich or Lymphocytic predominance is rare and has many characteristics that can cause confession when diagnnosing.
4. Lymphocyte depleted is also a rare subtype that can be easily confused with diffuse large cell lymphoma.
The symptoms of Hodgkins lymphoma can vary from person to person depending on the type and “stage” of the disease. The most common symptoms of Hodgkins lymphoma is swollen lymph nodes. The most frequently affected nodes are those in the neck and shoulder as well as those in the chest. Night sweats and unexplained weight loss are also common. Weakness and fatigue as well as a dry cough are also common. Some experience shortness of breath or an itchy rash.
A diagnosis of Hodgkins lymphoma is made after microscopic examination of nodular tissue removed during a biopsy. After the diagnosis has been made the Dr will then do further testing to determine the “stage” that the disese has progressed to.
Stage I is the involvement of 1lymph node region or 1 organ site.
Stage II involves 2 or more lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm or 1 lymph node region and a contiguous lymph organ site.
Stage III involves lymph node regions on both sides of the diaphragm, and/or limited contiguous lymphatic organ site.
Stage IV is the most advanced stage involving not only the lymph nodes and organs but also other areas of the body like the lungs or bones.
Your Dr will also add an A to the stage number if you are not experiencing any significant symptoms and a B if you are experiencing systemic symptoms.
The treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma depends on several factors including the type of Hodgkins lymphoma you have and what stage it is in as well as your general health and personal preference. Chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy is the most common treatment for early stage classical Hodgkins lymphoma. Bone marrow transplants are also being used more frequently today since techniques have improved. Receiving a diagnosis of Hodgkins lymphoma can be devastating to you and your family. However, in recent years treatments and survival rates have significantly improved giving more hope to patients, their families, and Drs. After receiving your diagnosis it’s important to learn as much as you can about your specific type of Hodgkins lymphoma and treatments available so you can make informed decisions about your care. A strong support system and positive attitude can help you cope with many of the issues that may arise during your treatment and recovery.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.