Hodgkin lymphoma: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system , which is part of the immune system and mainly affects lymphocytes.

It is characterized by the presence of a particular cell, known as the Reed Sternberg cell.


The cause of the lymphoma is not yet known; however, the risk increases slightly in some patients with chronic infections, autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, or rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

People who have received long sessions of chemotherapy for other diseases may also have a higher risk of triggering a lymphoma.

Immune deficiency or deficiency of the immune system that has been inherited or caused by the AIDS virus is also a risk factor in the development of lymphoma. However, there is no specific infectious cause as there are no substances that are known to cause this disease.


If a lymphoma is suspected, a blood test will be performed to detect any abnormality. This test could indicate an underlying malignant disease in the blood.

Also a blood cell count is useful to provide information about the likely behavior of the lymphoma, as well as how the kidneys and liver are functioning.

The diagnosis is confirmed by a biopsy in the lymph gland so that the organization and structure of the cells can be studied.

A combination of the appearance of individual cells, the structure of the lymph gland and additional information from a number of studies will show whether a lymphoma is present or whether it is low, intermediate or high grade.

The lymphoma may occupy only one area in the body (stage 1) or may have spread through the body (up to stage 4). The age of the person, the general medical condition and whether the lymphoma is low, intermediate or high grade, will be determinant in the patient’s prognosis. Staging is the final step in determining the proper treatment plan, but often a second series of tests are carried out before this happens.

The tests that can be performed include:

* Additional blood tests.
* A lumbar puncture. Fluid is taken from the spine to test if the lymphoma involves the brain or spine.
* A CT scan (computerized axial tomography). A painless radiological procedure where the images of the thorax, abdomen and other parts of the body are entered into a computer to show a detailed view. A special liquid can be administered before the test to help delineate the abdomen. People usually lie on their backs for a lapse of about ten minutes during the scan.

Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

Some types of lymphoma grow very slowly and treatment is not necessary for a long time. The treatment of each person is determined by factors such as age, general health, the type of lymphoma and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Other factors considered include the behavior of an enzyme in the blood called lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and another substance in the blood called beta 2 microglobulin.

The goal of treatment is to destroy as many malignant (cancerous) cells as possible and cause the disease to go into remission. There are a number of treatments that can be used to do this, but the main ones are chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a transplant of stem cells or bone marrow.