A Quick Reference Guide to Hodgkin’s Disease

March 20, 2008 by  
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Hodgkin’s Disease (HD) or Hodgkin Lymphoma is a type of lymphoma, not to be confused with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Lymphoma is a cancer that begins at the cellular level of the immune system. For more information on lymphoma in general see the excellent article in our archives.

Hodgkin’s Disease is identified by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cell.

Hodgkin’s Disease/Hodgkin Lymphoma is broken down into two basic types: Classical Hodgkin lymphoma (95% of all cases) and Nodular lymphocyte-predominate Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL). NLPHL is rare and is identified by a popcorn cell.

HD can start anywhere in the lymphatic system but usually begins in the lymph nodes of the chest, neck or under the arms. It can spread from node to node and into the blood stream.

Classic symptoms of HD:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the upper body that are painless
  • Painful lymph nodes after consuming alcohol
  • Unexplained weight loss, poor appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Itchy skin
  • Respiratory distress, or chest pain
  • Unexplained weakness or lethargy

These symptoms are very general and could indicate other diseases, which is why it is important to see a doctor right away for a complete physical. A follow up blood test, chest x-ray and/or CT or PET exam of the lymph nodes and spleen may be indicated. A biopsy (lymph node or bone marrow) is a final tool to check the cellular make-up of your lymphocytes.


Treatment plans will depend on the staging of the disease. Lymphoma has four stages. Stages 1 and 2 are limited disease and stages 3 and 4 indicate more extensive disease. Treatment is individualized and may include combination therapies.

Basic treatment modalities offered for HD may include:

Chemotherapy-Chemotherapy options for adult HD patients are discussed on the Lymphoma Network website.

Radiation-The basics of radiation therapy for the HD patient can be found on the Oncology Channel.

Stem Cell Transplant-For more information the National Cancer Institute provides a fact sheet called: Bone Marrow Transplantation and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation: Questions and Answers. It is in pdf format.

The American Cancer Society reports that in 2008 the estimated new cases and deaths from Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States are 8,220 new cases and 1,350 deaths.

Adults and children get HD but the most common groups are young adults (ages 15-40) and late adulthood (after 55).

Cause and Prevention:

The cause is unknown and so prevention of the disease is not possible.

There are disease indicators, those factors that have been found to be common or proven to indicate an increased risk per the American Cancer Society:

  • Epstein-Barr virus-the risk is somewhat higher in individuals who have had EBV which is the virus that causes mono.
  • Age-the age group characteristics listed above.
  • Gender-HD is slightly more prevalent in males than females
  • Geography-Most common in the U.S., Canada and northern Europe.
  • Family History Risk Factor-Much higher if you have a brother or sister with HD.
  • Socioeconomic-Higher risk is noted in people with a higher socioeconomic background.


**The New York Times features an in depth article called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in their Health Guide, dated today, March 20, 2008. This is an excellent resource. Print it out and save it.**

The American Cancer Society: Learn About Hodgkin’s Disease.

The Hodgkin’s Lymphoma page of the National Cancer Institute.

The Lymphoma Information Network:For information on Adult and Childhood Hodgkin’s Disease.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Cure Hodgkin’s.com

The Lymphoma Research Foundation

For support: The Violet Ribbon Campaign: Uniting the Hodgkin’s Disease Community.

Please send a note if you have other valuable resources you would like mentioned.

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4 Responses to “A Quick Reference Guide to Hodgkin’s Disease”
  1. You know what, Mary, I have given GOOD chocolate, Godiva to friends battling cancer. Because I know that they can put it in the freezer and save it for a day that they feel like eating chocolate.

    It totally depends on the person and the treatment regime. Just like any other treatment, everyone has personalized issues.

    Or send some socks– conversation starter socks, or a really funny DVD to enjoy. Laughing is a good thing.

    Really the only thing I don’t send is flowers or fresh fruit as I don’t know what their white count is and I don’t want to send anything that might carry bacteria. And I am probably being over cautious.

    The real point here is that it is the thought that counts.

  2. Mary C says:

    Tina, My daughter is wanting to give Jacob some kind of get well gift and she’s wondering if there are rules about candy, what can he eat, will be be sick. Do you know or does it vary from one patient to the next?

  3. Thanks for stopping by Mary. If there is anything else I can do please holler. My thoughts are with your daughter and her friend Jacob.

  4. Mary C says:

    Thanks, Tina. My daughter’s got a friend who has just been diagnosed with this. I’m sending the link on to my daughter, who needs more information to help her deal with this. I’ll suggest she send it to Jacob, too.

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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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