Meet Hodgkin’s Disease

November 30, 2006 by  
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By Hendrick Wilbur

Most people have certainly been hearing this term, lymphoma, from others. Some hospital-drama television series usually would have an episode where a patient is diagnosed with lymphoma and most of us are just left hanging on what it really is. Suffice it to say that probably, most are aware that it is a kind of cancer. Cancer in what organ or body part? Caused by what? Many people fall short of enough knowledge about this type of cancer. But no worries, they really can’t be accused of apathy. Lymphoma is actually a very rare type of cancer so it is understandable that awareness on is not as prevalent as to other cancer types.

Lymphoma is considered as a collective term for a variety of cancer. This cancer type has its origin in the lymphocytes or histiocytes — very rare from the latter, though. Lymphoma starts in a B cell in lymph nodes. The cancerous cells reproduce themselves over and over again. The presence of these unnecessary cells sets the ground for the formation of cancer. This is because these cells do not die; they are not needed by the body in the first place, and they spread to other areas, causing further harm.

There are five clusters of specific cancer types under the umbrella concept of lymphoma. The World Health Organization grouped these specific cancer types according to their cell types. The first one is the mature B neoplasms. Second is mature T cell and natural killer cell (NK) neoplasms. Third is the immunodeficiency-associated Lymphoproliferative disorders. Fourth is histiocytic and dendritic cell neoplasms. Last is Hodgkin lymphoma or more commonly known as Hodgkin’s disease.

The most popular of all is the Hodgkin’s disease. It is named after Thomas Hodgkin, who described the disease in 1832. Hodgkin’s disease is characterized by the abnormal growth of cancer cells in the lymphatic system. Specifically, the Reed-Sternberg cells are the ones involved in Hodgkin’s disease. This disease is very rare that it accounts for only one percent of the total cancer cases or one for every 400,000, at least in America.

The most common symptoms of Hodgkin’s disease are swollen, painful or non-painful lymph nodes. The swelling usually occurs at the neck or nape, armpit, or groin. Some systemic symptoms like drastic weight loss, skin itching, low-grade fever, night sweats, and fatigue can also be indicative of a Hodgkin’s disease case. Enlargement of the spleen, splenomegaly, and/or enlargement of the liver can also happen. People from the age range of 15 to 34, and above 55 are the ones most susceptible to develop Hodgkin’s disease.

Just like the other kinds of cancer, the causes of Hodgkin’s disease is still unknown. But the factor most likely to contribute to the development of it is genetics. People who have relatives, distant or immediate, have been inflicted with Hodgkin’s disease or other types for that matter, are at a very high risk. A deteriorated or damaged immune system, from a previous ailment or operation, is also a very high risk factor. Gender is believed to play a role, too, since most recorded cases are with men.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the usual treatments for Hodgkin’s disease. Radiation therapy is a high technology option, which makes use of high-energy rays capable of damaging cancer cells to stop their growth. This treatment option is administered only in hospitals and clinics, and under the permission of an expert doctor. Radiation therapy is effective for treating cases still on the early stage. A frequency of five therapy sessions in every week for several months is the average treatment period using radiation therapy. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, involves the use of drugs to kill the cancer cells. A combination of different drugs, which can work together, is the usual procedure being given by doctors when using chemotherapy. The drugs can be taken orally, or injected into arteries or even muscles for faster travel inside the body. The most popular drug combination for chemotherapy is the adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine combination called the ABVD regimen. There is a very high chance that Hodgkin’s can be treated, provided that it is detected at an early stage and treated immediately with the most appropriate treatment option. Records have it that early detection and appropriate treatment gives an 85 percent chance of survival and cure.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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