Facts and figures about hodgkin’s lymphoma
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a rare malignancy in adults; approximately 1,900 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK, accounting for less than 1% of all new cancer cases. Higher incidence in men, male to female ratio is approximately 13:10. Age related, can occur at any age but high incidence between 20 and 24 years of age and then again in those over 70 years of age.
The causes are unknown but risk factors are a weakened immune system, exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus or having a first degree relative diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma symptoms
- Swelling/lump in the neck, groin or axilla, usually painless although sometimes described as aching –most common presenting symptom.
- Night sweats/fever.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Persistent tiredness.
- Increased incidents of infection.
- Persistent cough/breathlessness.
- Persistent itching.
Diagnosis of hodgkin’s lymphoma
Investigations may include:
- Physical examination.
- Biopsy –tissue sample taken from the lymph node and sent for analysis.
- Blood tests.
- Bone marrow biopsy.
- Chest X-ray.
- CT scan.
- PET scan.
- MRI scan.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment
Depends on several factors:
- Stage of the disease.
- Age and general health.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment, sometimes given in combinations with steroids. Most early stage patients will have ABVD chemotherapy – adriamycin (doxorubicin), bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbizine. There are some other combinations which include chemotherapy drugs and the steroid prednisolone.
Bone marrow and stem cell transplants
If patients have high dose chemotherapy that destroys the bone marrow, they may require a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Radiotherapy may be used if the lymphoma cells are found in only one or 2 areas of the lymph nodes in the body or may be given in advanced cases to shrink large lymph nodes, usually after chemotherapy.
Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody that stops lymphoma cells from dividing and growing and may be used in a rare lymphocyte predominant type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.