What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma was discovered by Thomas Hodgkin, a doctor who lived in the early 1800s..

Question: What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?


Lymphoma is a cancer involving lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are the most basic 2 categories of lymphomas.

The definition of Hodgkin lymphoma, or HL, is grounded in history and refers specifically to the particular kind of lymphoma first described by Thomas Hodgkin, a doctor who lived in the early 1800s.

Since then, just five types of HL have been described. In contrast, long lists of more than 60 lymphomas that are not Hodgkin’s lymphoma have been discovered, known collectively as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or NHL.

What makes HL different, aside from history? Well, the presence of the Reed-Sternberg, or RS cell is one thing -- this is the cancer cell of Hodgkin disease and it looks rather like an owl under the microscope. When RS cells are present, this helps the pathologist diagnose HL. People of all ages can develop HL, but HL is rare in young children -- most lymphomas in young children are NHL. HL has two peak age groups -- one in the 20s and one in the 70s/80s.

People with HL may develop different symptoms, however the most common symptom is enlarged lymph node(s) and nothing else. Lymph nodes may be enlarged in the neck, armpits, or groin, or within the chest. Less commonly, those with HL, may have weight loss, fever, itching or drenching sweats at night – collectively called B symptoms.

An estimated 9,050 new cases of HL are diagnosed each year. After a series of tests, patients are staged to determine how far the cancer has spread and which structures are involved. When available, PET/CT scans are performed to determine the stage of disease. Patients are then treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both.

HL is considered one of the more treatable cancers and many patients are cured.

Updated October 2015.

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