What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma

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Also known as Hodgkin’s disease (HD), Hodgkin lymphoma is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. There are two main types of lymphoma: one is Hodgkin lymphoma and the other is non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The difference between Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma is in the certain lymphocyte involved. Hodgkin lymphoma involves the presence of an abnormal cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell. If there is no Reed-Sternberg cell, then the lymphoma is categorized as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

According to Healthline, Hodgkin lymphoma is most likely to occur in people between the ages of 20 and 40 as well as people over the age of 55.

Within this article we will be examining Hodgkin lymphoma as well as its symptoms and causes. But first, it is important to examine the main subtypes of Hodgkin lymphoma.

Subtypes of Hodgkin Lymphoma

Classic Hodgkin lymphoma or cHL is more common and is found in 9 out of 10 cases in developed countries. Classic Hodgkin lymphoma has four subtypes:

  1. Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma (NSCHL): the most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma in developed countries found in 7 out of 10 cases. This subtype tends to start in lymph nodes in the neck or chest. It occurs in people of any age, but it is more common in teenagers and young adults.
  1. Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma (MCCHL): the second most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma, and is found in 4 out of 10 cases in developed countries. More commonly, this subtype occurs in the upper half of the body but can also start in any lymph node. People with HIV infection are most likely to develop the disease, though it is also found in children and the elderly.
  1. Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin lymphoma: the least common type of Hodgkin lymphoma. Similar to the previous subtypes, this subtype occurs in the upper half of the body. However, it occurs in less than a few lymph nodes.
  1. Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphoma: the rarest form of Hodgkin lymphoma. The subtype most often occurs in lymph nodes found in the belly or abdomen, spleen, liver, and bone marrow. Unfortunately, it is one of the more aggressive types of Hodgkin lymphoma. It is more likely to occur in the elderly and those with HIV infection.


The symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • night sweats
  • itchy skin
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • persistent cough
  • trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • pain in lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
  • enlarged spleen
  • swelling of the lymph nodes

The swelling of the lymph nodes is the most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma. When the lymph nodes swell a lump begins to form under the skin. The lump forms on the side of the neck, in the armpit, or near the groin. The symptom of a swollen lymph node does not usually cause pain.

Contact your doctor if you believe you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. In order to get an accurate diagnosis, it is important to speak to your doctor.


The exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known. However, a few things have been conveyed to cause or lead to Hodgkin lymphoma:

Familial: Someone in the family has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. More specifically, children who have a parent with Hodgkin lymphoma are more likely develop the disease. Having an identical twin or a sibling who is the same sex also increases the chances of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.

Environment: The environment in which you grew up in also affects the risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma. In fact, having fewer siblings and being in single-family homes increases the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma. The increased risk is possibly due to a lack of exposure to bacterial and viral infections at a younger age.

Presence of a Certain Viruses: The Epstein-Barr virus not only causes infectious mononucleosis (mono), but it also has been implicated to cause Hodgkin lymphoma. The genome of the Epstein-Barr virus is present in 20 to 80 percent of Hodgkin lymphoma tumors.

Diagnosing Hodgkin Lymphoma

There are several factors and tests to correctly diagnose Hodgkin lymphoma. Your doctor will also be able to tell what stage the cancer is, including early stage (stage 1), locally advanced disease (stage 2), advanced (stage 3), and widespread disease (stage 4). In order to determine the right treatment for you, it is important for your doctor to make a correct diagnosis and assign the stage your cancer is. Certain tests help determine a proper diagnosis. These tests include:

  • imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans)
  • lymph node biopsy
  • blood tests (CBC)
  • immunophenotyping
  • lung function tests
  • echocardiogram
  • bone marrow biopsy

Contact a doctor you trust in order to take the next steps towards treatment.