Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma overview

At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), our team of experts cares for people with Hodgkin lymphoma every day. Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer of the lymph system. It is one of the most curable forms of cancer, and it can be cured or controlled for many years in most people. Advances in diagnosis and treatment have helped give people with this disease a chance at full recovery. 

Your SCCA medical oncologist, hematologist, radiation oncologist and pathologist specialize in finding out your specific type, subtype and stage of lymphoma. They will customize a combination of advanced treatments to create the best possible outcome for you.

As part of our holistic approach to treating our patients, we’ll also connect you with our in-house social workers, psychiatrists and other supportive care services. Because at SCCA, we are in this together.
 

Hematologist A physician who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer. Lymph system The tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. The tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels (a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells). Lymphatic vessels branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body. Medical oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists. Oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment, such as treating cancer with radiation. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation. Pathologist A physician who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

SCCA: A leader in Hodgkin lymphoma treatment

Where you are treated matters. Coming to SCCA after a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis means you are now at the center of one of the most experienced, research-driven, comprehensive cancer care centers in the country. 

At SCCA, we are dedicated to giving you the most positive outcome possible. And we are here with you every step of the way. 
 

Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer.
Learning about Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is caused when something goes wrong inside the lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue.

Usually, healthy lymphocytes help our bodies fight infection. In lymphoma, the lymphocytes don’t mature and can’t do their normal immune functions to defend against infection. The lymphoma cells don’t die off like they should. Instead, they collect in the lymph nodes.

There are several kinds of lymphocytes that protect the body in many ways:

  • B lymphocytes, or B cells, make antibodies. Antibodies attach to bacteria and to cells that are infected with a virus or bacteria, so that other immune cells recognize them and know to destroy them.
  • T lymphocytes, or T cells, help destroy invaders or tumor cells and attract or stimulate other immune cells to kill invaders.
  • Natural killer cells search for abnormal cells and destroy them.

Most often, Hodgkin lymphoma starts in the lymph nodes in the upper part of the body — in the neck or chest or under the arms. It can spread through the lymph system to nearby lymph nodes and outside the lymph nodes to the bone marrow, lungs or liver. The good news: Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured or controlled for many years in most people who have the disease.

The lymph system

To understand lymphoma, it helps to know the basics about your lymph system. The lymph system is a network of tubes (lymphatic vessels) that slowly carry fluid from your tissues into your bloodstream to be recycled. This fluid (lymph) contains waste products from body tissues as well as immune system cells.
 
An important part of your immune system, lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs linked by your lymphatic vessels. They store lymphocytes and act as filters to trap foreign particles.

Lymph nodes are located throughout your body in your neck, underarms, groin and behind your knees. They are also deeper inside your body in your chest, abdomen and pelvic area. Along with lymph nodes, you have other lymph tissue, including organs related to your immune and blood-forming systems, such as your spleen, thymus and bone marrow.

Cross section of a lymph node

 

Antibody A protein made by immune system cells and released into the blood. Antibodies defend the body against foreign substances, such as bacteria. B cell A type of white blood cell that makes antibodies. B cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. B cell A type of white blood cell that makes antibodies. B cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Lymphocyte A type of immune cell that is made in the bone marrow and is found in the blood and in lymph tissue. The two main types of lymphocytes are B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. A type of immune cell that is made in the bone marrow and is found in the blood and in lymph tissue. The two main types of lymphocytes (white blood cells) are B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. B lymphocytes make antibodies, and T lymphocytes help kill tumor cells and help control immune responses. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer. Lymph system The tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. The tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels (a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells). Lymphatic vessels branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body. Spleen An organ that is part of the lymphatic system. The spleen makes lymphocytes, filters the blood, stores blood cells and destroys old blood cells. It is on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach. T cell A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. Also called T lymphocyte and thymocyte. T lymphocyte A type of white blood cell. T lymphocytes are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. Also called T cells and thymocyte. Thymus An organ that is part of the lymphatic system, in which T lymphocytes grow and multiply. The thymus is in the chest behind the breastbone. White blood cell A type of blood cell that is made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue. White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system and help the body fight infection and other diseases. A type of blood cell that is made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue. White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system. They help the body fight infection and other diseases. Types of white blood cells include granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils), monocytes and lymphocytes (T cells and B cells). Checking the number of white blood cells in the blood is usually part of a complete blood cell (CBC) test. It may be used to look for conditions such as infection, inflammation, allergies and leukemia. Also called leukocyte and WBC.
“Some of our patients are absolutely voracious for information; they want to research and know everything they can. Others feel overwhelmed with too much information and would rather have us communicate only the most important details. Tell your care team how you prefer we share information with you.”
— Ryan C. Lynch, MD, hematologist-oncologist
Learning about Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is caused when something goes wrong inside the lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue.

What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?

About 8,300 people are newly diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States each year. Physicians do not know what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. It is more common in men than in women and more common in people ages 15 to 35 or over 50.

You may be at higher risk if any of these is true:

  • Your immune system is weakened by an inherited disease, an autoimmune disease, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or drugs that you are taking because you had an organ transplant.
  • You have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mononucleosis).
  • Your brother or sister had Hodgkin lymphoma.

However, keep in mind that most people who get the disease do not have any of these risk factors, and most people with these risk factors do not develop the disease.

Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer.
What causes Hodgkin lymphoma?

About 8,300 people are newly diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States each year. Physicians do not know what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. It is more common in men than in women and more common in people ages 15 to 35 or over 50.
 

Your first appointment

From the first time you come to see us, your Hodgkin lymphoma team will begin getting to know you and your family. What are your questions? What are your concerns?

During your first appointment, your hematologist-oncologist will explain your type and subtype of Hodgkin lymphoma. They will tell you how it’s treated and which tests you need to help plan your care. Before you leave, your team will make sure you understand the next steps.

Hematologist A physician who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer.

Care at SCCA

How does SCCA approach treatment?

The safest, most effective and most widely accepted therapies for cancer are known as the “standard of care.” For many patients, these therapies will be a large part of their treatment. At SCCA, we provide all standard therapies for Hodgkin lymphoma. We know how to choose the right ones for you and how to deliver them to give you the best chance at a full recovery. 

Our physicians and researchers are always asking how we can make Hodgkin lymphoma treatments better and reduce side effects as much as possible. This is why we do clinical trials (also called clinical studies). Through these trials, we are able to offer you therapies that aren’t offered everywhere. A therapy that is going through trials now may become the new standard of care tomorrow.

Along with treating your cancer, a group of world-class professionals is here to support you. From nurses and dietitians to physical therapists and psychologists, we integrate supportive care services to promote your physical, mental and emotional well-being. 

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies. Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies.

Treatment plan and process

Hodgkin lymphoma can now be cured or controlled for many years in most people who have the disease. 

Depending on the type, subtype and stage of your disease, SCCA offers comprehensive treatment plans that may include chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, bone marrow transplant or clinical trials. Access to clinical trials is one reason many people come to SCCA.

As you go through treatment, your needs may change. Your care team at SCCA is with you each step of the way. For example, we will help you deal with any side effects you have. We may suggest adding a new therapy that was just approved. Even after your Hodgkin lymphoma treatment is complete, we will keep seeing you to protect your health over the long term. 

Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. Targeted therapy A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies help the immune system kill cancer cells, or they deliver toxic substances directly to cancer cells and kill them. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment. Most targeted therapies are either small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.
“There are clinical trials that may help improve how we treat patients, either by increasing cure rates, or by decreasing the side effects of treatment while maintaining high rates of success.”
— Ryan C. Lynch, MD, hematologist-oncologist

Other resources

Care team
Care team

At SCCA, a team of dedicated people surrounds you and your family to give you the highest level of care and support. You are the most important person on your care team. Our patients are at the center of everything we do. 

Research
Research

SCCA is a national leader in Hodgkin lymphoma research. We have more than 40 Hodgkin lymphoma trials going on at any time, which help us reach our goals of finding new and effective drugs, discovering new ways to use existing drugs, improving how well our treatments work and reducing side effects of current treatments. 

Resources
Resources

There are many resources for learning about your disease, as well as organizations that provide support. Health educators at the SCCA Patient and Family Resource Center have put together a list of trusted sources to help you get started.

For caregivers

Caregiver icon

When someone close to you is diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, you might step into the role of caregiver. Being a caregiver can mean many things, from lending a hand with daily living tasks to helping with medical decisions. It can also mean dealing with your own emotions and stress.

At SCCA, caregivers are valuable members of a patient’s care team. We see every day that your presence and support make a difference. We know that what your friend or family member is going through affects you, too.

Part of our mission is to help you take care of yourself. Caring for yourself is good for your physical, mental and emotional health. It also helps you give your best to your loved one. Our social workers, Spiritual Health team and Patient and Family Resource Center staff are here to help support you.

Caregiver A person who gives care to people who need help, such as children, older people or patients who have chronic illnesses or disabilities. A person who gives care to people who need help taking care of themselves, such as children, older people or patients who have chronic illnesses or disabilities. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers or members of the clergy. They may give care at home, in a hospital or in another health care setting. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer.