Definition of Hodgkin disease

Hodgkin disease: This is a cancer that develops in the lymph system (lymphoma), part of the body's immune system. Because there is lymph tissue in many areas of the body, Hodgkin disease can start in almost any part of the body. The cancer can spread to almost any organ or tissue in the body, including the liver, bone marrow, and spleen. The cancer cells in Hodgkin disease appear distinctive under a microscope (as Reed-Sternberg cells).

Hodgkin's disease most commonly affects young adults in their 20's and 30's, and people older than 55 years of age. It may also be found in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); these patients require special treatment. Hodgkin's disease can occur in children and is treated differently from that in adults.

Symptoms include painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin; fever; night sweats; tiredness; weight loss without dieting; or itchy skin. If there are symptoms, a doctor will carefully check for swelling or lumps in the neck, arm pits, and groin. If the lymph nodes do not feel normal, a biopsy may be done.

The chance of recovery (prognosis) and choice of treatment depend on a number of factors including the stage of the cancer and whether it is just in one area or has spread throughout the body. Treatment is with radiation and/or chemotherapy. Hodgkin disease is life-threatening, if untreated, but has a very high cure rate. Also called Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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