Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in lymph nodes (or glands). These are all over your body and it is their job to help you fight off infections, like sore throats or earache. 

What does it feel like?

The lymph glands in your neck, groin (the bit between your stomach and top of your leg) or armpit might swell up. This normally doesn’t hurt but it might ache a bit. You might sweat a lot during the night so that your sheets and pyjamas are wet, have a temperature, lose weight or feel itchy.

How is it diagnosed?

You will probably have a biopsy. This means the specialist will take out part of the swollen gland and looks at it under a microscope but they will numb the area or put you to sleep so it does not hurt.

If the biopsy shows that there is Hodgkin lymphoma in the gland, you might also need a blood test and a scan. This is when you lie very still in a special machine that takes pictures of the inside of your body.

Will I need medicine and treatment?

Chemotherapy is special medicines that kill the cancer cells and you might need it for several months. If it does not kill all the cancer, or if it comes back after your treatment, you might be given some stronger chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy uses invisible laser beams to destroy the cancer while you lie very still on a special bed. Radiotherapy is normally used if there are still some cancer cells left after chemotherapy or if your cancer comes back.

What will treatment feel like?

Chemotherapy might make you feel more tired and poorly than usual. It can make you feel a bit sick, change how much you need the toilet and you might lose your hair while you’re on treatment. There will also be a greater risk of infections.

Radiotherapy can also make you feel unwell and can make your skin a bit red and sore where you are being treated.

This all might sound a bit scary, but it is very normal and part of helping you get better.

If you are worried, you should talk to your nurse or doctor, or a family member – there are lots of different ways they can help you.

What will happen afterwards?

When your treatment has finished, you will still need to keep seeing a doctor to make sure your cancer is staying away and that your body continues to work properly after the treatment. Sometimes, people will need to continue having help, but lots of people get better without any problems.

Will I get ill again?

Some treatments can affect your chances of being able to have your own children later on and you might be more at risk of having another tumour, but doctors will try their best to avoid this. You should talk to your specialist if you are worried.

Updated April 2018, next review due 2021.