One of two major types of lymphoma that begin in the lymph nodes, organs, and tissues of the lymphatic system. It usually begins in lymph nodes in the neck, axilla, or chest. It can be identified microscopically by a characteristic cell called the Reed-Sternburg cell, an unusual type of cancerous B lymphocyte.
Hodgkin's disease usually is discovered when a person has an enlarged lymph node, most often in the neck but sometimes in the armpit or groin. Although usually painless, the enlarged node may be painful for a few hours after a person drinks large amounts of alcohol. Sometimes enlarged lymph nodes deep within the chest or abdomen, which are usually painless, are found unexpectedly on a chest x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan performed for other reasons.
Along with enlarged lymph nodes, Hodgkin's disease sometimes produces additional symptoms such as fever, night sweats, and weight loss. For reasons not known, the skin may itch intensely. Other symptoms may develop, depending on where the lymphoma cells are growing. A person may have no symptoms or only a few of these symptoms.
Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) is the use of high-energy radiation to treat cancer. This high-energy radiation is used because it concentrates the radiation dose on the tumor while "sparing" the tissues that are not likely to contain cancer cells. Radiation works by damaging the DNA in the cancer cells making it difficult or impossible to repair radiation-induced injury.
The goal is that these cancer cells will then die. It is considered a "local" therapy as it only affects a small area of the body - the tumor and surrounding area. For Hodgkin's disease, various areas (fields) are treated with radiation therapy. The specific areas treated will depend on the patient’s clinical situation and extent of disease
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs (often called "anticancer drugs") to treat cancer. Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer cells by interfering with the cell's ability to grow and multiply. The therapy is considered "systemic" because it affects the whole body, including both normal and cancerous cells. Four or more anticancer drugs are often used to treat Hodgkin's disease.
Depending on the stage of Hodgkin's disease and the patient's situation, chemotherapy can be used to cure the disease, or to keep it from spreading or to slow its growth and relieve symptoms.
Most chemotherapy is given intravenously (IV) but some may be given by mouth. In most cases, chemotherapy is administered on an outpatient basis. Treatments are usually given followed by a rest period so the body can build healthy new cells and gain strength.
After the rest period, the cycle begins again. Treatment cycles and schedules vary from patient to patient. Your doctor will provide you with information about specific treatment schedules. The prior use of chemotherapy may affect recommendations and the outcome of additional therapy.
Bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant
Bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant involves the use of high-dose chemotherapy, sometimes combined with radiation therapy, to treat a relapse of Hodgkin’s disease. This treatment can result in sustained remissions.
This treatment also destroys the bone marrow (the spongy material inside the bones) where blood cells are formed. The use of this intensive therapy requires that a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant follow the treatment to allow the bone marrow to recover. Without the infusion of the bone marrow or blood stem cells, the patient would succumb to severe infections and bleeding.