Overview

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system and is diagnosed by the identification of a characteristic cell under the microscope (the Reed- Sternberg cell). Hodgkin’s lymphoma typically begins in the lymph nodes in one region of the body and then spreads through the lymph system in a predictable manner. It may spread outside the lymph system to other organs such as the lungs, liver, bone and bone marrow.

In order to understand the best treatment options available for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it is important to first determine where the cancer has spread in the body. All new treatment information is categorized and discussed by the stage, or extent, of the disease. Determining the extent of the spread or the stage of the cancer requires a number of procedures including CT scans, PET scans and blood tests. The goal of staging Hodgkin’s lymphoma is to determine which patients have early and which have advanced stage cancer. Historically, many patients required surgical staging and removal of the spleen through an abdominal laparotomy. Recent advances in treatment described under stage I or II have essentially eliminated the need for laparotomy. In order to learn about the most recent treatment information available, click on the appropriate stage of Hodgkin’s disease.

Stage I: Cancer is found only in a single lymph node, in the area immediately surrounding that node or in a single organ.

Stage II: Cancer involves more than one lymph node on one side of the diaphragm (the breathing muscle separating the abdomen from the chest).

Stage III:The cancer involves lymph node regions above and below the diaphragm. For example, there may be swollen lymph nodes under the arm and in the abdomen.

Stage IV: Cancer involves one or more organs outside the lymph system or a single organ and a distant lymph node site.

Patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma may also experience general symptoms from their disease. Patients with fever, night sweats or significant weight loss are said to have “B” symptoms. Patients who do not experience these specific symptoms are classified as “A”.

Relapsed/Refractory: The cancer has persisted or returned (recurred/relapsed) following treatment.