What is Hodgkin's Disease?

Garry Crystal

Hodgkin's disease is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. Such cancers are known as lymphomas. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system. It is made up of a series of tubes throughout the body. These tubes carry a liquid that helps the body fight infection. Clusters of small organs that filter the liquid, or lymph, are called the lymph nodes.

A medical professional may examine an X-ray for signs of Hodgkin's disease.
A medical professional may examine an X-ray for signs of Hodgkin's disease.

The lymph nodes are found in the groin, underarm, neck and abdomen. Hodgkin's disease occurs when the lymph nodes grow abnormally. As with all cancers, after the initial cells are attacked, the cancer can spread to other organs.

Hodgkin's disease affects the underarms.
Hodgkin's disease affects the underarms.

Hodgkin's disease is a very rare type of cancer. It makes up only one percent of all the different types of cancer that can occur. The initial symptoms of Hodgkin's disease are not unlike those of the common flu. The sufferer usually notices a swelling in the glands of the neck, groin or underarm area.

The initial signs of Hodgkin's disease include fever and other flu-like symptoms.
The initial signs of Hodgkin's disease include fever and other flu-like symptoms.

Other symptoms of Hodgkin's disease may be night sweats and fever. The sufferer may also feel tired frequently and begin to lose weight. Irritable, itchy skin is another common symptom of Hodgkin's disease. These are the main initial symptoms of Hodgkin's disease, but they are similar to other common illnesses. For this reason, a doctor should be visited immediately if the symptoms persist for more than a two week period.

The diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease only comes about after many tests. A doctor will perform blood tests and x-rays of the bones, liver and spleen. A full medical history will be taken, and a complete physical exam will also be performed. The doctor will need to find out what stage the cancer is at in order to begin the best course of treatment. The doctor will also need to perform CAT scans and x-rays to find out where the cancer has spread within the body, especially if it has spread to the vital organs and bones.

The treatment for Hodgkin's disease depends on how far and deep the cancer has spread. Treatment usually consists of either chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy involves the use of medicines in order to kill the cancerous cells. Radiation therapy uses energy rays to prevent the cancerous cells from spreading. As with all types of cancer therapy, there are no guarantees as to how successful the treatments will be.

Seventy-five percent of all patients diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease have been treated successfully and cured. Every day, new research and scientific breakthroughs are being sought to fight cancer. There are new drug trials and methods of treatment tested daily to fight Hodgkin's disease and other cancers like it.

Doctors often consult with colleagues when faced with cases of rare diseases, such as Hodgkin's disease.
Doctors often consult with colleagues when faced with cases of rare diseases, such as Hodgkin's disease.

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