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What is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma by Amber Mills

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Cancer of the lymphatic system (a part of the immune system) is known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This happens when cells in the body grow abnormally. Like other cancers, it may then spread to other parts of the body. Hodgkin’s is especially dangerous because since it is a cancer of a part of the immune system, it conflicts with your body’s ability to fight off infection.

The lymphatic system is crucial in the human body. It is a network consisting of nodes that run throughout the body. Nodes are tiny knots of tissue, which are tiny filters that strain out foreign things in the body. The lymphatic system also produces white blood cells, which help protect your body from infection.

Symptoms of Hodgkin’s can include painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin, tiredness, flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills, major weight loss, and trouble breathing. Those who are most at risk of Hodgkin’s are people between the ages of 15 and 35, and also those over 55, those who have a family risk of this particular disease, those with weak immune systems, those who have had an illness that contributed to the Epstein-Barr virus, and also males have a higher rate of developing Hodgkin’s.

Those who think they may have symptoms of this disease should first make an appointment with their General Practitioner. At the appointment the doctor will most likely perform a physical exam to look for swollen lymph nodes, perform blood tests, perhaps an x-ray or MRI, and possibly a bone marrow biopsy to be sure the cancer has not affected the bone marrow.

A tissue biopsy is the only way Hodgkin’s can be diagnosed. This is when the doctor will take tissue from a swollen lymph node, or possibly remove the entire node to check for a type of cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell, which causes Hodgkin’s. If the biopsy comes back positive for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the doctor will then send the patient for many tests such as blood tests, chest x-rays, MRIs, PET scans, a spinal tap, and CT scans. With the help of the results of these tests, the doctor can then “stage” the disease which is how bad the disease has become.

There are many different options for treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma depending on what stage the cancer is in. Treatments could include chemotherapy, radiation, or even a stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy is a drug therapy, which uses chemicals to kill lymphoma cells. Many times chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy, which uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Sometimes, people with early-stage Hodgkin’s can undergo radiation therapy alone. It is a less invasive treatment option. If the disease has spread to the bone marrow, which is very serious, a stem cell transplant may be necessary. This is where they replace cancerous bone marrow with stem cells to help regrow new, healthy, bone marrow.

The outlook and survival rate for those who have been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma are promising. 90%-95% who are diagnosed with Stage 1 or Stage 2 Hodgkin’s will live at least five years after treatment. 85%-90% of those diagnosed with stage 3 will live at least five years, and roughly 80% of those who are diagnosed in even stage 4 will live at least this long as well.

Sometimes after treatment, a patient may develop other long-term health issues such as leukemia, breast cancer, heart disease, thyroid disease, lung cancer, and infertility. After treatment for Hodgkin’s a patient must undergo annual physical exams to do screens for these many other diseases.


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