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Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections.
The lymphatic system includes the following:
Hodgkin's lymphoma causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection and cause swelling in the lymph nodes. Hodgkin's lymphoma cells can also spread to other organs and tissue. A cancer cell that has spread to other organs and tissue is called "metastasis." It is a rare disease, accounting for less than 1 percent of all cases of cancer in the US. Hodgkin's lymphoma accounts for about 5 percent of childhood cancers. Hodgkin's lymphoma occurs most often in people between the ages of 15 and 34, and in people over age 55. The disease, for unknown reasons, affects males more than twice as often as females.
The specific cause of Hodgkin's lymphoma is unknown. It is possible that a genetic predisposition and exposure to viral infections may increase the risk for developing Hodgkin's lymphoma. There is a slightly increased chance for Hodgkin's lymphoma to occur in siblings and cousins of patients.
There has been much investigation into the association of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes the infection mononucleosis; as well as with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Both of these infectious viruses have been correlated with a greater incidence of children diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, although the direct link is unknown.
There are many individuals, however, who have infections related to EBV and HIV that do not develop Hodgkin's disease.
The following are the most common symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Hodgkin's lymphoma may include:
Staging is the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. There are various staging systems that are used for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Always consult your child's physician for information on staging. One method of staging Hodgkin's lymphoma is the following:
Stages are also noted by the presence or absence of symptoms of the disease:
For example, stage IIIB is disease that is symptomatic, involves lymph node regions or structures on both sides of the body, and is further classified depending on the organs and areas involved.
Specific treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Treatment may include (alone or in combination):
Aggressive therapy, while increasing long-term survival, also carries some serious side effects. Discuss with your child's physician a complete list of known side effects for treatment plans and therapies.
Prognosis greatly depends on:
As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Every child is unique and treatment and prognosis is structured around the child. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for the child diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies, can occur in survivors of Hodgkin's lymphoma. New methods are continually being discovered to improve treatment and to decrease side effects.
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