Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps to protect you from infections and disease – it’s a network of fine tubes that runs through the body.

Types of Hodgkin lymphoma

There are two main types of Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Classical Hodgkin lymphoma, which is the most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL).

There are four kinds of classical Hodgkin lymphoma. You can talk to your specialist about your particular type of cancer and its treatment.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is a swelling in the neck, armpit or groin. This isn’t usually painful but may be achy. You may notice you lose weight without meaning to, have a high temperature or sweat heavily during the night. You may also feel breathless, or have a cough that doesn’t go away.

How is it diagnosed?

If your GP thinks you need to have further tests, you’ll normally be sent to the hospital where a specialist takes a sample from the affected area (biopsy). This usually happens under local anaesthetic, where the area is numbed and you won’t feel any pain.

You may have further tests if your specialist thinks that your cancer, in the form of a tumour, or lump, may have spread.

The specialist will be able to work out the stage of cancer from these tests. The stage is the size of the tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of your body.

How is it treated?

Hodgkin lymphoma is normally treated with chemotherapy but may also involve radiotherapy. Your exact treatment will depend on how far the tumour has spread, so it’s best to talk to your specialist for further information.

Chemotherapy, which uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells, is usually given as an injection or through a drip every 3–4 weeks for two or more sessions of treatment. A course of radiotherapy, where radiation is used to kill cancer cells, usually lasts about 5 to 8 weeks.

Most patients also have treatment with steroid medication. This may be given through a drip at the same time as your chemotherapy, or as oral medication to take at home.

What happens after treatment?

You will still need to attend an outpatient clinic regularly so your specialist can check your progress and make sure your cancer hasn’t come back.

Many people don’t have long-term health problems following treatment, but some do. Talk to your specialist about the potential long-term side effects of your treatment.

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