Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Hodgkin’s Disease): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Hodgkin’s Disease): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Hodgkin’s lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s disease, is a group of blood cancers affecting your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes nodes, organs, and vessels throughout the body that helps your body’s immune system to fight infections. 

It originates in the lymphocytes – the white cells within the lymph nodes – resulting in swollen lymph nodes and lumps throughout the body. With timely treatment, there are chances of full recovery.

The blog explains Hodgkin’s lymphoma, its types, symptoms, causes, and various treatment options. 

What is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Everyone has a lymphatic system, a network of nodes connected through vessels that drain fluid and waste products from your body. These nodes also act as filters for foreign organisms and cells. In addition, it is responsible for producing white blood cells known as lymphocytes that help protect you from infections caused due to bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When these lymph nodes fight an active infection, you may notice inflammation of lymph nodes and tissues – a normal reaction to an infection.

Lymphoma is a condition when the cells in the lymph nodes or the lymphocytes start to rapidly and controllably multiply. These cancerous cells invade the healthy tissues in other body parts. As the disease progresses, your body finds it difficult to fight infections.

What are the Types of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma and nodular lymphocytic predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NLPHL) are the two types of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These are identified based on samples of the enlarged lymph tissues, the types of cells involved, and their behavior. 

Classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma

It is the most common form of Hodgkin lymphoma. Experts identify it by analyzing the lymph node, surrounding tissues, and blood cells for signs of Reed-Sternberg cells. It is further classified into four subtypes, such as:

  • Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma: it occurs in the lymph nodes present in your chest and neck. They are more common among teens and young adults. It accounts for close to 70% of classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases
  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin’s lymphoma: it is the second most common type that is mainly seen in HIV patients. It develops in the lymph nodes of your upper body.
  • Lymphocyte-rich classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma: is rare and can be detected early. It is more common among men than women. 
  • Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin’s lymphoma: It is most often noticed in lymph nodes in your abdomen, spleen, liver, and bone marrow. This rare form is diagnosed at advanced stages among older adults and HIV patients. 

Nodular lymphocytic predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NLPHL)

This type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rarer than the classic type. Men are more suspectable to this form than women. Experts analyze the lymph nodes, surrounding tissues, and blood tissues for abnormal cells known as popcorn cells – they are large and appear like popcorn. These cells are variants of the Reed-Sternberg cells seen in classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What are the Causes of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Healthcare providers have identified certain risk factors that increase your chances of developing the disease. The risk factors are as follows:

  • People between the age of 20 to 40 and older than 60 are at high risk
  • Men are more at risk than women
  • Family history of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Organ transplant recipients taking antirejection medications 
  • Certain viruses, such as HIV, AIDS, and Epstein Barr

What are the symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Painless swelling on the lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groins is the first common symptom of the disease. Other symptoms include:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Constant fever and cough
  • Night sweats 
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Severe itching
  • Painful lymph nodes when drinking alcohol
  • Breathing issues
  • Chest pain
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Abdominal pain and swelling

When to Seek Medical Care?

Contact your healthcare provider immediately when you experience any symptoms indicating Hodgkin’s lymphoma or experience any side effects from the treatment.


How do Doctors Diagnose Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Your healthcare provider may diagnose through physical examinations and noting down the symptoms. They also order other tests to confirm their suspicion. The following are the tests:

  • Blood tests: Complete blood check and erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, check for levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, lactic acid, dehydrogenase, and uric acid. 
  • Imaging tests: These tests include X-rays, CT scans, MRI, ultrasound, and PET Scans. These tests help your doctor find cancer in other parts of your body. 
  • Lymph node biopsy: A small section of your lymph node is removed through a needle. Your healthcare provider checks for signs of cancer, type, and severity to find the best possible treatment options. 
  • Bone marrow biopsy: Your doctor inserts a needle into your hip bone to remove a sample of your bone marrow. The sample is analyzed and checked for Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer cells. 
  • Lung and heart function tests: determine if your heart and lungs are functioning efficiently. 
  • Tests for viruses: Your healthcare provider may conduct tests that indicate viruses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV. 

What are the Various Treatment Options for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

The treatment aims to completely kill the cancerous cells or prevent them from rapidly multiplying. The following are various treatment options:

  • Chemotherapy: In this, your doctor may use one or more medications that kill the cancerous cells or prevent them from growing. These medications are intravenously or orally administered to you. 
  • Radiation therapy: It is another cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-ray beams and other forms of radiation to kill the cells or prevent them from multiplying. It is sometimes administered after chemotherapy or by itself. 
  • Immunotherapy: It is also known as biologic therapy or biotherapy. Here, your doctor provides vital inhibitors that boost your immune system.
  • Targeted therapy: In this, medications, such as antibody-drug conjugates, are administered to target and attack the cancerous cells. These medications are lab-created to find and destroy Reed-Sternberg cells.
  • Bone marrow transplant is an option when you do not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation. Here, your doctor infuses you with healthy cells known as stem cells in your body. These stem cells replace cancerous cells in your bone marrow. 


Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a rare blood cancer that affects your lymph nodes. However, as medical science has advanced, we have newer medications that help eliminate and prevent cancerous cells from growing. Also, studies reveal that nearly 90% of early-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients are cured of the disease. The earlier the  cancer is detected , the better the prognosis. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Hodgkin’s lymphoma preventable?

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent the disease from developing as no known triggers cause genetic mutation, leading to the disease.

What are the stages of Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

There are four stages, and they are as follows:

  • Stage 1: The cancerous cells remain in one area of the lymph node
  • Stage 2: It affects two or more lymph nodes on the same side of your diaphragm
  • Stage 3: The cancerous cells are present on both sides of your diaphragm and may have spread to your spleen. 
  • Stage 4: The cancerous cells are present in one of the other organs in your body that are not a part of the lymph node system