Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a malignant tumor that comes from white blood cells and belongs to the large group of lymphomas. Hodgkin's lymphoma is relatively common in young men.


The tumor arises from lymphocytes. The lymphocytes are white blood cells that play an important role in the immunity system. The lymphoma occurs when a single lymphocyte gets affected by a genetic mutation, starts to proliferate uncontrollably and no longer responds to the central regulation. The exact cause of the mutation is unclear; it is probably a combination of a genetic condition and some outer factor such a viral infection. Hodgkin's lymphoma is unique by presence of so-called Reed-Sternberg cells (abbreviated as RS cells) that produce large amounts of inflammatory mediators contributing significantly to the symptoms of the disease.


Tumor cells infiltrate the lymph nodes and cause their painless enlargement, especially of the lymph nodes in the neck. In addition, there is usually enlarged liver and enlarged spleen. RS cells produce a large number of pro-inflammatory substances causing recurrent fever, night sweats and unintentional weight loss. The affected person suffers from deteriorated immunity and recurring infections.


The above-mentioned symptoms may be highly suspicious of a blood malignity. Blood test are important mainly to exclude leukemias or other lymphomas because in Hodgkin's lymphoma it is relatively normal or with only unspecific changes. The extent of the disease may be evaluated by using computed tomography. The crucial examination is finding a suitable enlarged lymphatic node, let it removed by a surgeon and send it to histological examination to confirm the presence of tumor cells and RS cells. Depending on the exact nature of the cells, Hodgkin's lymphoma is divided into more specific subtypes with different prognosis.


In general, blood cancers are almost always surgically untreatable at the time of diagnosis as the tumor cells have already spread to multiple areas. The basic method of treatment is therefore the chemotherapy and rarely, bone marrow transplant is performed.


The prognosis depends on the extent of the disease and the type of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Generally speaking, the prognosis of patients with this disease is very good, and the disease is successfully curable in up to 80% of patients.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources