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In Hodgkin's lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin's lymphoma progresses, it compromises your body's ability to fight infection. Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of two common types of cancers of the lymphatic system. The other type, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, is far more common. Advances in diagnosis and treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma have helped to give people with this diagnosis the chance for a full recovery. The prognosis continues to improve for people with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Hodgkin's lymphoma signs and symptoms may include painless swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin, persistent fatigue, fever and chills, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, coughing, trouble breathing or chest pain, loss of appetite, itching, increased sensitivity to the effects of alcohol or pain in your lymph nodes after drinking alcohol. Hodgkin's lymphoma is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 35, as well as those older than 55. Anyone with a brother or a sister who has Hodgkin's lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has an increased risk of developing Hodgkin's lymphoma. Males are slightly more likely to develop Hodgkin's lymphoma. People who have had illnesses caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, such as infectious mononucleosis, are more likely to develop Hodgkin's lymphoma than are people who haven't had Epstein-Barr infections. Having a compromised immune system, such as from HIV/AIDS or from having an organ transplant requiring medications to suppress the immune response, increases the risk of Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose Hodgkin's lymphoma include a physical exam, blood tests, imaging results, surgery, and bone marrow test. Your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes, including in your neck, underarm and groin, as well as a swollen spleen or liver. A sample of your blood is examined in a lab to see if anything in your blood indicates the possibility of cancer. Imaging tests used to diagnose Hodgkin's lymphoma include X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Minor surgery may be done to remove all or part of an enlarged lymph node for testing. The lymph node is sent to a laboratory for testing. A diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma is made if the abnormal Reed-Sternberg cells are found within the lymph node. A bone marrow biopsy may be used to look for signs of cancer in the bone marrow. During this procedure, a small amount of bone marrow, blood and bone are removed through a needle.
After your doctor has determined the extent of your Hodgkin's lymphoma, your cancer will be assigned a stage. Your cancer's stage helps determine your prognosis and your treatment options. In stage 1 the cancer is limited to one lymph node region or a single organ. In stage2 the cancer is in two different lymph nodes or the cancer is in a portion of tissue or an organ and nearby lymph nodes. But the cancer is still limited to a section of the body either above or below the diaphragm. When the cancer moves to lymph nodes both above and below the diaphragm, it's considered stage 3. Cancer may also be in one portion of tissue or an organ near the lymph node groups or in the spleen. Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer cells are in several portions of one or more organs and tissues. Stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma affects not only the lymph nodes but also other parts of your body, such as the liver, lungs or bones. Which treatment options are appropriate for your Hodgkin's lymphoma depends on your type and stage of disease, your overall health and your preferences. The goal of treatment is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible and bring the disease into remission. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill lymphoma cells. Chemotherapy drugs travel through your bloodstream and can reach nearly all areas of your body. Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation therapy in people with early-stage classical type Hodgkin's lymphoma. Radiation therapy is typically done after chemotherapy. In advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, chemotherapy may be used alone or combined with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form or through a vein in your arm. Several combinations of chemotherapy drugs are used to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma. Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the specific drugs you're given. Common side effects include nausea and hair loss. Serious long-term complications can occur, such as heart damage, lung damage, fertility problems and other cancers, such as leukemia. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. For classical Hodgkin's lymphoma, radiation therapy can be used alone, but it is often used after chemotherapy. People with early-stage lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin's lymphoma typically undergo radiation therapy alone. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table and a large machine moves around you, directing the energy beams to specific points on your body. Radiation can be aimed at affected lymph nodes and the nearby area of nodes where the disease might progress. The length of radiation treatment varies, depending on the stage of the disease. Radiation therapy can cause skin redness and hair loss at the site where the radiation is aimed. Many people experience fatigue during radiation therapy. More serious risks include heart disease, stroke, thyroid problems, infertility and other forms of cancer, such as breast or lung cancer. A stem cell transplant is a treatment to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells that help you grow new bone marrow. A stem cell transplant may be an option if Hodgkin's lymphoma returns despite treatment. During a stem cell transplant, your own blood stem cells are removed, frozen and stored for later use. Next you receive high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy to destroy cancerous cells in your body. Finally your stem cells are thawed and injected into your body through your veins. The stem cells help to build healthy bone marrow.

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