Lymphoma - Hodgkin
*Links on this page will take you to content on the cancer.net website. Links will open in a new window.
Hodgkin lymphoma, also called Hodgkin's disease, is one category of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system. Lymphoma begins when cells in the lymph system change and grow uncontrollably, which may form a tumor.
The lymph system is made up of thin tubes that branch out to all parts of the body. Its job is to fight infection and disease. The lymph system carries lymph, a colorless fluid containing lymphocytes (white blood cells). Lymphocytes fight germs in the body. B-lymphocytes (also called B cells) make antibodies to fight bacteria, and T-lymphocytes (also called T cells) kill viruses and foreign cells and trigger the B cells to make antibodies.
Groups of bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes are located throughout the body at different areas in the lymph system. Lymph nodes are found in clusters in the abdomen, groin, pelvis, underarms, and neck. Other parts of the lymph system include the spleen, which makes lymphocytes and filters blood; the thymus, an organ under the breastbone; and the tonsils, which are located in the throat.
Hodgkin lymphoma most commonly affects lymph nodes, usually beginning in the neck or the area between the lungs and behind the breastbone. It can also begin in groups of lymph nodes under the arms, in the groin, or in the abdomen or pelvis.
If Hodgkin lymphoma spreads, it may spread to the spleen, liver, bone marrow, or bone. Spread to other parts of the body can also occur, but it is unusual.
This section covers Hodgkin lymphoma in adults. Learn more about childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
Back to top
Types of Hodgkin Lymphoma
There are different types of Hodgkin lymphoma. It is important to know the type, as this may affect the choice of treatment. Doctors determine the type of Hodgkin lymphoma by how the cells in a tissue sample look under a microscope and whether the cells contain abnormal patterns of certain proteins.
The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) recognizes these major categories of Hodgkin lymphoma:
Classical Hodgkin lymphoma. Classical Hodgkin lymphoma (CHL) is diagnosed when characteristic Reed-Sternberg cells are found. About 20% to 25% of people with CHL in the United States and Western Europe have also had the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis, also known as "mono").
The following list describes the different CHL subtypes.
Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma. Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common form of CHL (up to 80% of people with CHL have this form). It is most common in young adults, especially women. In addition to Reed-Sternberg cells, there are bands of connective tissue in the lymph node.
Lymphocyte rich classical Hodgkin lymphoma. About 6% of people with CHL have this form. It is more common in men and usually involves areas other than the chest (mediastinum). The tissue contains many normal lymphocytes in addition to Reed-Sternberg cells.
Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma. This type of lymphoma occurs in older adults and more commonly in the abdomen. It carries many different cell types, including large numbers of Reed-Sternberg cells.
Lymphocyte depleted Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphocyte depleted Hodgkin lymphoma is the least common subtype of CHL, and about 1% of people with CHL have this form. It most frequently appears in older adults, people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and people in nonindustrial countries. The lymph node contains almost all Reed-Sternberg cells.
Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. About 5% of people with Hodgkin lymphoma have nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. It is not a part of the CHL group, but is more similar at the protein and genetic level to B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is most common in younger patients, and is often found in the neck lymph nodes.
Back to top
Looking for More of an Overview?
If you would like additional introductory information, explore the following item on Cancer.Net:
- Cancer.Net Patient Education Video: View a short video led by an ASCO expert in this type of cancer that provides basic information and areas of research.
- Medical Illustrations
- Risk Factors
- Side Effects
- After Treatment
- Questions to Ask the Doctor
- Current Research
- Patient Information Resources
- Clinical Trials Resources
- Late Effects of Treatment
Oncology®. All rights reserved. www.cancer.net.