What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, whose function is to fight disease and infections.
The lymphatic system includes:
lymph - fluid in which the lymphocyte cells are suspended.
lymph vessels - thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body.
lymphocytes - cells that fight infection and disease.
lymph nodes - bean-shaped organs, found in the underarm, groin, neck, and abdomen, that act as filters for the lymph fluid as it passes through them.
Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007 about 8,190 new cases will be diagnosed. About 10 percent to 15 percent of cases are found in children 16 years old and younger.
Hodgkin's disease causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection. Hodgkin's disease cells can also spread to other organs.
The following are the most common symptoms of Hodgkin's disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- painless swelling of lymph nodes in neck, underarm, and groin
- night sweats
- weight loss
- itching of the skin
The symptoms of Hodgkin's disease may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems, such as influenza or other infections. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is anything that may increase a person’s chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk factors.
Although these factors can increase a person’s risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop cancer, while others develop cancer and have no known risk factors.
But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.
Suggested risk factors for Hodgkin's disease include the following:
- infection with infectious mononucleosis
Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis (also called “mono”) has been linked to Hodgkin’s disease.
- infection with infectious mononucleosis
Hodgkin's disease occurs most often in people between ages 15 and 34, and in people over the age of 55.
Hodgkin's disease is more common in men than in women.
- family history
Brothers and sisters of those with Hodgkin's disease have a higher-than-average chance of developing this disease.
- acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Hodgkin's disease may include the following:
- additional blood tests
- x-rays of the chest, bones, liver, and spleen - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- computed tomography (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than standard x-rays.
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan - a nuclear scan that gives information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.
- lymph node biopsy - a procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope.
Specific treatment for Hodgkin's disease will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- radiation therapy
- high-dose chemotherapy with bone marrow transplant or peripheral stem cell transplantation
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Online Resources of Hematology & Blood Disorders