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Hodgkin's disease

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Hodgkin's disease also known as Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph tissue present in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, liver and the spleen. So basically it occurs when the lymphocytes or the lymph nodes multiply abnormally, producing malignant cells having the ability to invade other cells of the body.

Symptoms of Hodgkin's disease

It typically affects young adults and older adults in the age group of 15-35 years and above 50 years, respectively.

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes present in your armpit, neck and groin.
  • High fever with chills
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Irritation and itchiness in the skin
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in lymph nodes after consuming alcohol

Causes of Hodgkin’s Disease

Mutation in the DNA of the lymphocytes or B cells lead to abnormal proliferation and accumulation in the lymphatic system. The exact cause behind the mutation is still unknown, nonetheless several probable reasons have been proposed by doctors.

  • Presence of genetic material of the Epstein-Barr virus
  • It could be genetic. Children of parents with Hodgkin’s disease can inherit the cancer. Similarly if a brother or sister has the disease, then the other sibling is also at the risk
  • Environmental change or people with weak immune system (HIV/AIDs)

Types of Hodgkin’s Disease

Classical Hodgkin's lymphoma

95% of all cases of Hodgkin disease account to the classical type. It is characterized by presence of Reed-Sternberg cells (giant cells) in their lymph nodes which could be of the following variants

  • Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin disease
  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin disease
  • Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin disease
  • Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin disease

Nodular Lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin's disease

The cells are viewed as lymphocytes sheets arranged in nodules. The large abnormal cells are also called popcorn cells and they affect the lymph nodes of the neck and armpit. 5% of Hodgkin's diseases are nodular lymphocyte-predominant type.

Diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease

See your doctor on observing the aforementioned symptoms. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check the condition of the lymph glands present in various parts of the body.

On suspicion of abnormality, your doctor will assign blood tests, CT scan, PET or MRI to rule our possibility of cancer. You may also need to undergo a bone marrow biopsy as a part of diagnosis.

If cancer has been detected, then depending on the degree of its progression it will be assigned stage 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Treatment of Hodgkin’s disease

The treatment is based on the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age, medical history, the type of disease and of course the symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to an oncologist who can ideally conduct the treatment of the cancer.

Cancer treatments typically chemotherapy and radiation therapy are performed on the individual. If the disease recurs then stem cell transplantation is the only option.

Coping with the Side Effects of the Treatment

It’s indeed a great deal of mental and physical challenge to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. We guide you to the following ways to make your life better after treatment:

  • Make sure you cultivate lot of patience and will power to cope with the cancer
  • Stay positive and happy. Engage in social activities once you regain physical fitness
  • Eat nutritious foods, quit smoking and drinking alcohol and exercise daily

Make sure you see your doctor on noticing any abnormal symptoms. Get yourself diagnosed properly with early treatment for complete cure.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 12, 2015