Home  >  Health Resources  >  Health Encyclopedia

Frequently Asked Questions About Hodgkin Disease

Frequently Asked Questions About Hodgkin Disease

Listed below are some frequently asked questions regarding Hodgkin disease.

Q: What are lymphomas?

A: Lymphoma is a kind of cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. There are 2 main types of cancer of the lymphatic system: Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In either type, cells in the lymphatic system grow out of control. Usually, the body makes new cells only when they are needed. Sometimes the body starts making cells when they are not needed. When this happens, a tumor, or mass, will grow.

Q: What is the difference between Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

A: The cells of Hodgkin disease look different compared to other lymphomas under a microscope. Also, each disease spreads in a different pattern. Hodgkin disease spreads in a more predictable way and usually does not spread as much as non-Hodgkin. The 2 types of lymphoma are also treated differently.

Q: What is the lymphatic system?

A: The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, which helps the body fight infections. 

Illustration of the lymphatic system of the head and neck.
Lymphatic system of the head and neck.

The lymphatic system also helps maintain the fluid balance in different parts of the body by bringing excess fluid back into the bloodstream. Here are the main parts of the lymphatic system:

  • Lymphatic vessels. These are a series of thin tubes that run all over the body, much like blood vessels.

  • Lymph. This is the fluid inside the lymphatic vessels. This colorless, watery fluid is rich in white blood cells, mainly lymphocytes, which help the body fight off infection.

  • Lymph nodes. These are pea size groups of cells (mainly lymphocytes) that are found throughout the body. They are connected by lymph vessels. Lymph runs through the vessels and passes through the lymph nodes toward the heart.

  • Some organs. These include the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and tonsils.

Q: What causes Hodgkin disease?

A: Doctors do not know what causes this disease. Many possible causes have been studied, including a virus and the environment. Although the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be involved in the cause of some cases of Hodgkin disease, it is not clear how. Hodgkin disease is also more common in males, in people of certain ages, and in people with a family history of the disease, although it's not clear exactly how these factors might affect risk. 

Q: What is a fine needle aspiration?

A: A fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a type of biopsy. A doctor uses a very thin, hollow needle to take a small sample of tissue from the tumor. This is not always the best way to get cells to check for Hodgkin disease. The needle is so thin that it sometimes cannot take enough tissue for the pathologist to see cancerous cells. That means that the doctor may need to use another way to take a biopsy.

Q: What is the difference between an excisional and incisional biopsy?

A: An excisional biopsy is when a surgeon takes out a whole lymph node to be checked for cancer. An incisional biopsy is when the surgeon takes out only part of the tumor.

Q: What are the symptoms of lymphomas?

A: These are some of the most common symptoms of lymphomas:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, groin, or underarms

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Itchy skin

  • Night sweats

  • Unexplained weight loss

People may have only some of these symptoms. It is important to remember that all these symptoms can be caused by other medical problems. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

Q: Can Hodgkin disease be cured?

A: Many people with Hodgkin disease can be cured. If the disease is found in the early stages, it can almost always be cured. In later stages, Hodgkin disease is still curable in the majority of cases.

Q: How is Hodgkin disease treated?

A: The treatment for Hodgkin disease depends on the type and stage of the disease, among other factors. The main treatment for Hodgkin disease is chemotherapy. Sometimes, radiation and chemotherapy are used together. Stem cell transplantation or monoclonal antibodies may be used if these treatments don't work. 

Q: Should everyone get a second opinion for Hodgkin disease?

A: Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another doctor. There are many reasons to get one. Here are some of those reasons:

  • The person is not comfortable with the treatment decision.

  • The type of cancer is rare.

  • There are different ways to treat the cancer.

  • The person is not able to see a cancer expert.

Many people have a hard time deciding which treatment to have. It may help to have a second doctor review the diagnosis and treatment options before starting treatment. It is important to remember that in most cases, a short delay in treatment will not lower the chance that it will work. Some health insurance companies even require that a person with cancer seek a second opinion, and many other companies will pay for a second opinion if asked.

Q: How can someone get a second opinion for Hodgkin disease?

A: These are some of the ways to get a second opinion:

  • Ask a primary care doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest a specialist. This may be a medical oncologist or radiation oncologist. Sometimes these doctors work together at cancer centers or programs. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

  • Call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service. The number is 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237). They have information about treatment facilities. These include cancer centers and other programs supported by the National Cancer Institute.

  • Seek other options. Check with a local medical society, hospital, medical school, or cancer advocacy group to get names of doctors who can give you a second opinion. Or ask other people who have had Hodgkin disease to refer you to someone.


Today's Interactive Tools


Related Items