Hodgkin ‘s lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s disease or lymph node cancer, is a malignant cancer of the lymphatic system. The disease was named after its discoverer, Thomas Hodgkin.
What is Hodgkin’s disease?
In short, Hodgkin’s lymphoma means cancer of the lymph glands. Although the disease is malignant, the chances of recovery are very good at an average of 90 percent. See homethodology for Hypophosphatemia Overview.
Hodgkin’s disease occurs only very rarely: on average, only 2 to 3 people out of 100,000 people fall ill every year, mostly young people. Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age, but there is a certain accumulation in the third and seventh decade of life.
Children usually get sick between the ages of 10 and 14 years. Hodgkin lymphoma affects more men than women.
The specific causes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are not known. However, it is suspected that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) promotes the onset of the disease.
This virus causes glandular fever, which is particularly common in children. Patients who have already suffered from this lymph gland disease, which is accompanied by fever, later develop Hodgkin lymphoma much more frequently than healthy people.
In addition, EBV viruses have already been detected in the Hodgkin and Sternberg-Reed cells, which are typical of Hodgkin’s disease.
However, one argument against this thesis is that the vast majority of the population is infected with EBV viruses without ever developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Accordingly, other causes must also play a role.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Hodgkin’s disease is initially characterized by painless swelling of the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes in the neck area in particular are enlarged. But enlarged lymph nodes are also observed in the groin, chest, abdomen and armpits. In the chest area, they can sometimes lead to a chronic dry cough.
It is also typical that the swellings remain permanently and new ones keep appearing. Usually these do not cause pain. However, alcohol consumption can in rare cases lead to so-called alcohol pain in the lymph nodes. This is considered an almost certain sign of Hodgkin lymphoma.
If B symptoms occur, the prognosis of the disease worsens. B symptoms are characterized by the additional occurrence of fever, night sweats and rapid weight loss of up to ten percent of body weight in six months. Furthermore, about 30 percent of those affected also suffer from non-specific symptoms.
These can manifest themselves as chronic tiredness, a drop in performance, general weakness and itching all over the body. As the disease progresses, other organs are gradually affected. The spleen and liver can enlarge enormously, causing left and right upper abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, and indigestion.
In the advanced stage of the disease, disorders of the nervous, endocrine and immune systems can occur, as well as the lungs, skeleton or brain being affected, with the occurrence of a large number of symptoms. Without treatment, Hodgkin lymphoma is fatal. In the context of cancer therapy, however, the chances of a complete cure are very good.
Diagnosis & History
In the case of an illness with Hodgkin’s disease, the lymph glands swell, especially in the neck, armpits and chest area. Pain doesn’t come with it. So-called B symptoms (secondary symptoms of the disease) are exhaustion, exhaustion, an inexplicable weight loss of more than 10 percent within 6 months, fever, night sweats and a drop in performance.
In most cases – in about 70 percent of those affected – the lymph nodes in the neck swell. In a third of the patients, the swelling first appeared behind the breastbone. In this case, the B symptoms are accompanied by a dry cough and chest pain. Organs in the abdomen can also be affected by Hodgkin lymphoma.
A feeling of pressure or pain in the upper and lower abdomen and unexplained diarrhea could indicate this type of cancer. An atypical accumulation of viral and fungal infections caused by bacteria is sometimes an indication of Hodgkin’s disease. Left untreated, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is always fatal.
Hodgkin’s disease reduces the patient’s life expectancy. Since this is a tumor, in the worst case it can spread to other regions of the body and thus lead to the death of the patient. Those affected suffer primarily from fever and night sweats.
Furthermore, there is a greatly reduced resilience, which is the basis of a general weakness. Those affected feel exhausted and tired and therefore no longer actively participate in life. Weight loss is also not uncommon. Furthermore, the patients suffer from coughing and itching, which can occur in different parts of the body. Diarrhea and abdominal pain can also occur.
Hodgkin’s disease is treated with surgery. Complications usually do not arise. In many cases, those affected are dependent on radiation or chemotherapy even after the treatment. However, it is not uncommon for the cancer to recur and require treatment. Patients are therefore usually dependent on regular examinations.
When should you go to the doctor?
Persistent swelling of the lymph or irregularities in the lymph that occur noticeably frequently should be reported to a doctor. If the swelling increases in size or intensity, a doctor is needed. If the swelling spreads further in the organism or if it impairs mobility, there is cause for concern and a doctor’s visit is advisable. Enlargement of the lymph in the groin, armpit, chest or abdomen areas should be examined and clarified. If unusual swelling occurs on the body as a whole, a medical examination is also advisable. The disease is characterized by freedom from pain, despite the visual changes.
If a dry cough sets in, if there is a feeling of tightness or difficulty swallowing, a doctor should be consulted. If the swelling persists for several weeks, this is a warning from the organism and must be examined. If you are tired, have trouble sleeping or lose your usual ability to perform, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
If there are digestive disorders, an unwanted weight loss or a general weakness, this should be clarified. Itching, irregularities in the hormone system and abdominal pain are further signs of an existing disorder. Since Hodgkin’s disease has a fatal course in the worst case, a doctor’s visit should be made at the first sign of a discrepancy.
Treatment & Therapy
In most cases, in order to be able to treat Hodgkin’s disease, the enlarged lymph node must first be removed and examined for suspicious cells. A local anesthetic is often sufficient for this biopsy. However, if the suspicious lymph node is in a hard-to-reach place – such as in the chest area – the patient is given general anesthesia. The X- ray of the chest or an ultrasound tomography examines the body and the spread of the Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hodgkin lymphoma is typically treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation to the affected lymph glands. Chemotherapy and radiation are usually used as a combination treatment, with radiation usually following chemotherapy. Hodgkin’s lymphomas are very sensitive to both types of treatment, which explains the above-average healing success.
However, surgical removal of the tumors does not cure Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is therefore only carried out for diagnostic purposes. A hospital stay is usually not necessary. However, both chemotherapy and radiation have serious side effects.
Most relapses occur within two years, but these can usually be treated well. However, relapses more than 5 years after the initial illness are very rare. In order for a possible relapse to be recognized in good time, however, patients should definitely take part in the lifelong check-up.
In the first year after the therapy, this takes place quarterly, between the second and fifth year every six months and then once a year. These examinations are also about being able to diagnose and treat any late effects of Hodgkin’s lymphoma therapy.
Outlook & Forecast
Hodgkin’s disease is one of the malignant tumor diseases, but has the highest chance of recovery. More than 80 percent of those affected can now be cured. In earlier stages it is even more than 90 percent. In about 11 percent of those affected, the disease recurs or progresses despite therapy. The prognosis for these patients depends primarily on the time at which the recurrence occurs and also how intensive the therapy was for the first illness.
Despite this, even if Hodgkin’s lymphoma relapses, good therapeutic results and chances of recovery are still possible. However, this requires optimal and consistent therapy in an experienced specialist center. This also means that all aspects of long-term therapy-related side effects and the quality of life of those affected are taken into account.
There is currently insufficient research into why some rare cases of those affected by Hodgkin’s lymphoma cannot be treated. However, research is trying to uncover the causes for this so that those affected can also be helped with suitable therapies. Therefore, alternative treatment approaches are already being researched. Above all, the effectiveness of various antibody preparations, such as the “anti-CD30” preparation, which specifically attacks tumor cells, should be mentioned here. In the near future, such immunotherapies may represent an effective supplement to therapy.
Hodgkin’s disease cannot be prevented. However, regular cancer screening and a healthy lifestyle can help.
Tumor diseases carry a high risk of recurrence. It is not uncommon for new tumors to form after some time, which can even spread to other organs via metastases. The result is a sometimes greatly reduced life expectancy. Doctors counter this course with aftercare. Scheduled follow-up checks are usually agreed at the end of the initial therapy. For Hodgkin’s disease, follow-up is every three months for the first year.
Then the rhythm widens. From the fifth year of freedom from symptoms, an annual follow-up examination is sufficient. The control usually takes place in a clinic. Patients should definitely keep appointments. Because the diagnosis of a tumor in the early stages leads to much better treatment success.
A follow-up appointment initially includes a discussion about the patient’s complaints. A sonography and a blood test are then carried out. Some doctors also order an X-ray and CT after a while. A tumor can be clearly identified using imaging techniques.
Many patients take part in a rehabilitation measure after the strenuous initial therapy. There they are specifically prepared for their professional and private return to everyday life. Depending on the symptoms, long-term drug treatment may be necessary.
You can do that yourself
The standard therapies used in Hodgkin’s lymphoma are associated with high physical stress. Due to the immune suppression caused by the medication, contact with strangers, especially in public, should be avoided if possible. However, an occasional stay in the fresh air, away from large crowds, can improve blood circulation and reduce nausea.
A diet rich in whole grains and fresh vegetables provides vitamins and minerals that can aid in healing. Vitamin D plays an important role in the treatment of lymphoma and is not found in adequate amounts in the diet of most Europeans. Oily fish are an important source of vitamin D. In addition, fish ensures the supply of essential fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. The body can only produce small amounts of these two fatty acids. However, they are important for the brain, the cardiovascular system and the mobility of cell membranes.
However, caution is advisable with therapies and preparations that are intended to stimulate the immune system. The degenerated cells in Hodgkin lymphoma are part of the immune system. This applies to mistletoe therapies and all preparations made from mistletoe.
It is also advisable to use sugar and sweet foods sparingly. Cancer cells often have an increased need for sugar.