Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(5):625-626

See related article on Hodgkin lymphoma.

What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma (lim-FOE-mah), also called Hodgkin disease, is a type of cancer that affects your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes make and store cells to fight infection and are a normal part of your body, but they get bigger when you have this disease.

What causes it?

No one knows for sure, but Hodgkin lymphoma could be caused by certain viruses. It may also run in families.

Who gets it?

Anyone can get Hodgkin lymphoma, but teenagers, young adults, and people older than 60 years are most likely to get it. More men than women get it. People whose immune systems are not working well are also more likely to get it.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms will depend on which part of your body is affected. The most common symptom is swelling of one or more lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in the neck, above the collarbone, or in the armpit are often swollen. The swelling is not painful and usually feels smooth and rubbery. Other symptoms may include getting a fever, sweating a lot at night, or unexplained weight loss.

How do I know if I have it?

There are many reasons why lymph nodes may swell. If your doctor thinks you might have Hodgkin lymphoma, you may get some blood tests and x-rays. You may need a biopsy of a lymph node. A biopsy is when a surgeon takes a piece of the node to look at under a microscope.

How is it treated?

The kind of treatment you get depends on the type of abnormal cells found in your lymph nodes. Hodgkin lymphoma is treated with medicine and sometimes with radiation therapy, which uses a special machine that makes a certain type of energy to help destroy the cancer cells.

Can it be cured?

Often, Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured and does not come back. Treatments have improved, so now more than four out of five patients are cured. Overall, more than 80 percent of patients are alive 10 years after their diagnosis.

Will I still need to see my doctor after I'm cured?

Hodgkin lymphoma can return even after you're cured, so keep seeing your doctor. You also may get new problems or have long-term complications that your doctor needs to know about.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

National Cancer Institute

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