In 2013, an estimated 9,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Of these, 4,000 will be under the age of thirty-five.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to aid the body in fighting diseases and infections. This system is composed of vessels that circulate lymph fluid throughout the body, gathering toxins, infection, and other harmful materials. Lymph fluid also contains white blood cells, primarily T-cells and B-cells lymphocytes, which are the body’s primary infection fighting cells. These lymph vessels are connected to lymph nodes, which are small round organs scattered throughout the body. Lymph nodes filter and destroy harmful material gathered from lymph fluid and prevent those materials from harming tissue and organs. Accessory organs in the lymphatic system include the thymus, spleen, and tonsils.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma typically begins within a lymph node when a lymphocyte, typically a B-Cell, mutates. The mutated cell then divides, replicating its mutation and creating an accumulation of abnormal cells. White blood cells then begin to collect around the abnormal cells, causing the lymph node to swell. Eventually, abnormal lymphocytes can spread throughout the body, affecting other lymph nodes, organs, and tissues. These abnormal cells don’t die as normal cells do, nor do they fight infection like lymphocytes are designed to do. Typically, lymphoma cells travel from one group of lymph nodes to adjacent groups of lymph nodes. For example, lymphoma cells in the neck would then travel to lymph nodes below the collar bone, then to the armpit, then to the chest. Eventually, these cancerous cells may travel into the blood stream and to other organs of the body, such as the liver, lungs, or bone marrow.
Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma may include:
- Intermittent fever and chills
- Unexplained Itching
- Painless lymph node swelling- usually in the neck, armpit or groin
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis: Initial lymph node biopsies and blood tests are usually performed on a patient exhibiting symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Once these results have been analyzed, further testing may include CT scans, PET scans, and bone marrow biopsies. These tests are necessary to determine which type of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the patient may have, and which stage the disease has progressed to.
- Stage 1: Abnormal cells are only found in one lymph node group, usually in the neck or armpit, and are only found on one side of the diaphragm.
- Stage 2: Abnormal cells are found in two lymph node groups, but only on one side of the diaphragm. Other stage 2 classifications can include abnormal cells being found in one part of a tissue or organ and one group of lymph nodes nearby, but only located on one side of the diaphragm.
- Stage 3: Abnormal cells are found in lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm, found in tissue or organs near these lymph nodes, or the abnormal cells are found in the spleen.
- Stage 4: Abnormal cells are found in several parts of an organ or tissue, such as the liver or lungs. Cancerous cells are also found in lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is also given a letter, along with the stage:
- A: no symptoms are present
- B: patient is experiencing symptoms
- E: abnormal cells are found outside the lymphatic system
- S: abnormal cells are found in the spleen
- ES: abnormal cells are found outside the lymphatic system and also in the spleen
Treatment: There are various treatment options for this type of cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or stem cell transplant therapy. Often a combination of treatments is effective in treating Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, talk to your physician about screening options. There are many types of treatment available for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and if found early, your chances of beating this disease increases drastically.
Source: National Cancer Institute