What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects part of the immune system called the lymphatic system (a network of nodes, vessels and organs that removes waste from the body and fights infection).
It occurs when white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the lymphatic system become abnormal and keep growing.
There are 2 types of Hodgkin lymphoma:
- classical Hodgkin lymphoma, the more common type
- nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare type
Hodgkin lymphoma is also known as Hodgkin disease.
What are the symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?
The first noticeable symptom is often a painless swelling in one or more lymph nodes, usually in the neck, armpit or groin.
Other symptoms may include:
- unexplained tiredness
- night sweats or fever
- unexplained appetite or weight loss
- trouble getting over infections
- pain in the chest or stomach area
- unexplained, persistent cough or shortness of breath
- swollen tummy
- bruising or bleeding easily
- a rash or itching
What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?
The cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is largely unknown, but some factors can put people at greater risk. These include:
- infection with some viruses, such as the Epstein-Barr virus (that causes glandular fever) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- having a close relative who has had Hodgkin lymphoma
- having a weakened immune system
When should I see my doctor?
See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms outlined above. They will examine the lymph nodes in the neck, underarms and groin, and feel the abdomen to check whether any organs are swollen.
If they suspect Hodgkin lymphoma, they will refer you for further tests.
How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?
Hodgkin lymphoma is confirmed with a biopsy, where a sample of the affected lymph tissue is tested.
If the biopsy shows you have Hodgkin lymphoma, you will then have a series of further tests including blood tests, ultrasound, or CT or MRI scans to check whether the cancer has spread.
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How is Hodgkin lymphoma treated?
The treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is radiotherapy, chemotherapy or both. Sometimes people may be offered a stem cell transplant or newer, targeted therapies.
The chances of a full recovery after treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma are high.
Resources and support
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, talking to someone can help. Support is available by calling the Cancer Council helpline on 13 11 20.
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Last reviewed: January 2021