Hodgkin lymphoma is a growth of abnormal white blood cells that form tumors in the lymph system. The lymph system is part of your body’s system for fighting infection. The lymph system consists of lymph nodes that store blood cells (lymphocytes) to fight infection and vessels that carry fluid, nutrients, and wastes between your body and your bloodstream. This disease can occur in one lymph node, in a group of nodes, or in an organ. It can then spread to almost any part of your child’s body.
Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the many types of lymphoma. Other types of lymphomas are called non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The type of lymphoma is determined by how the cancer cells look under a microscope.
Hodgkin lymphoma, sometimes called Hodgkin disease, is one of the most curable cancers. The sooner cancer is found and treated, the better your child’s chances for recovery. However, even advanced cancer can usually be treated. Treatment may slow or stop the growth of the cancer and ease symptoms for a time. Ask your healthcare provider what you can expect with the type of cancer that your child has.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown.
Hodgkin lymphoma is most common in teens, adults up to age 35, and adults age 55 and older.
There is a slightly higher risk for Hodgkin lymphoma if:
Your child had infectious mononucleosis (mono), an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
You have close relatives (parent, brother, or sister) with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Your child has a weakened immune system.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Painless swelling of lymph nodes, in the neck, armpits, or groin
Fever and night sweats
Weight loss for no known reason
How is it diagnosed?
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and examine your child. Your child may have a lymph node biopsy, which uses a needle passed through the skin to take a small sample of tissue for testing. If Hodgkin lymphoma is found, more tests will be done to learn the stage or the extent of the disease. These tests may include:
CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the lymph nodes
MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the lymph nodes
PET scan, which is a series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
A bone marrow biopsy, which uses a needle passed through the skin to take a small sample of tissue for testing
How is it treated?
You and your healthcare provider will discuss possible treatments for your child. You may also talk with a cancer specialist. Some things to think about when making treatment decisions are:
Your child’s age
Your child’s overall health
The stage of the cancer (how advanced the cancer is)
Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your child’s body
Possible treatments are:
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells
Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells
Stem cell or bone marrow transplant, which uses your child’s own cells or cells from a donor
Supportive therapy, which includes antibiotics and blood transfusions
Your child’s treatment will also include:
Controlling pain or other symptoms
Controlling the side effects from treatments
Helping your child and your family cope with cancer
Often, more than 1 type of treatment is used. Your child will need to have regular follow-up visits with his or her healthcare provider.
Ask your healthcare provider about clinical trials that might be available to your child. Clinical trials are research studies to find effective cancer treatments. Itâ€™s always your choice whether your child takes part in one or not.
How can I take care of my child?
If your child has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma:
Talk about your childâ€™s cancer and treatment options with your childâ€™s healthcare provider. Make sure you understand the treatment choices.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your childâ€™s provider.
Ask your childâ€™s provider:
How and when you will hear your childâ€™s test results
How long it will take your child to recover
What activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
How to take care of your child at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
It may also help if your child:
Eats a healthy diet and gets regular exercise as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Gets plenty of rest.
Takes time for activities that he enjoys.
Tells you or his provider if treatment causes discomfort. Usually there are ways to help your child be more comfortable.
Counseling and support groups can help children and parents cope with the situation and help the family adjust to the changes in their lives.
What can be done to help prevent the cancer from spreading or coming back?
Your child should:
Complete the full course of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy treatments ordered by your healthcare provider.
Have regular checkups.
See a healthcare provider right away if there is a return of any previous symptoms, or if new symptoms develop.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-05-29 Last reviewed: 2014-04-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.