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Hodgkin's Disease

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymph system, a connecting network of glands and vessels that circulates white blood cells called lymphocytes. The spleen, thymus, and tonsils are also part of the lymph system. Lymphomas are a diverse group of diseases that includes Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's disease. Approximately, 85,000 new cases of lymphomas are diagnosed each year.

Cause of Hodgkin's Disease

The cause of Hodgkin's disease is not known. Fifty to 90 percent of the individuals with Hodgkin's have the Epstein-Barr virus in malignant cells, but the presence of this virus may or not be the cause of the disease. The disease usually affects people 15 to 35 years old but can occur in those older than 55 years old.

Books & research in Hodgkin's & Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Symptoms of Hodgkin's

Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin is usually the first symptom. Swelling does not necessarily mean that you have Hodgkin's, but if the swelling last for more than two weeks, you should see your physician. Other symptoms include persistent fatigue, fever and chills, unexplained weight loss and appetite loss, severe skin itch, and drenching night sweats.

Diagnosis of Hodgkin's

As with other suspected cancers, the doctor will ask about your symptoms, conduct an extensive physical examination, take a chest x-ray, and perform blood and urine tests. A lymph node biopsy (examining a piece of the lymph node) is usually done also. If diagnosed, a computed tomography (CT) is done along with other tests such as a bone marrow biopsy.

Treatment for Hodgkin's

If the cancer is limited, then radiation therapy is used. Sometimes it is used along with chemotherapy. In the early stages, Hodgkin's is very treatable. If the cancer is limited to one lymph node region and treated, 90 percent of people are disease-free after 10 years. If two lymph nodes are involved, 70 percent of the people are disease-free after the same time period.

For advanced Hodgkin's disease, chemotherapy is the primary treatment. Two-thirds of the people are alive and disease-free long-term after chemotherapy. If relapsed after the initial chemotherapy, higher doses are usually given. Before treatment, the bone marrow is removed, then the higher doses of chemotherapy are given, and then the bone marrow is replaced after the chemotherapy treatment is finished.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

This type of lymphoma is a group of tumors that arises from the lymphocytes (white blood cells). These tumors are more common than Hodgkin's-type tumors. People taking immunosupressive therapy (for transplants) and individuals with AIDS are at a higher risk of developing this disease. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is usually found in individuals 45 to 70 years of age. The diagnosis and symptoms for this disease are virtually the same as Hodgkin's disease but it is not as curable. The five-year survival rate is about 75 percent. Even with intermediate and high-grade stages, 60 to 80 percent of affected individuals enter complete remission with chemotherapy.

Treatments for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Treatment for non-Hodgkin's is also similar to Hodgkin's disease. Usually, chemotherapy is used with a combination of anti-cancer drugs. Sometimes an operation to decrease the size of the tumor is done if the tumor is in the stomach or in other unusual places. Radiation is also used in low to intermediate instances. Bone marrow is a new treatment that is used to treat both kinds of lymphoma. Here the bone marrow is taken out of the body, treated for cancer, and then frozen while high doses of chemotherapy is administered. After the treatment, the bone marrow is injected back into the body.

 

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