Hodgkin lymphoma can develop at any age, but it mostly affects young adults in their 20s and older adults over the age of 70. Slightly more men than women are affected. Around 1,900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK each year.

Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma

The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is a swelling in the neck, armpit or groin. The swelling is usually painless, although some people find that it aches. Some people with Hodgkin lymphoma also have other more general symptoms. These can include:

  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • Persistent tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty recovering from infections or developing infections more often
  • A persistent cough or feeling of breathlessness
  • Persistent itching of the skin all over the body

Other symptoms will depend on where in the body the enlarged lymph glands are. For example, if the stomach is affected, you may have abdominal pain or indigestion. In some cases, people with Hodgkin lymphoma experience pain in their lymph glands when they drink alcohol.

If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.

How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?

Your consultant or oncologist will perform a test called a biopsy, which is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a minor surgical procedure where a sample of affected lymph node tissue is removed.

Once the patient has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a variety of other tests are conducted to work out how far the cancer has spread, and what stage it has reached. These include:

  • A blood test to measure the levels of different types of blood cells
  • A lumbar puncture, where a needle is used to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds and protects your spine) from your back. The fluid is tested to determine whether leukaemia has reached your nervous system, and this test is carried out using local anaesthetic
  • A Computerised Tomography (CT) scan, which shows a 3D image of the area being looked at
  • An chest x-ray, where low level radiation is used to create an image of the body

Treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma

Patients with Hodgkin lymphoma are treated by a specialist multidisciplinary team from our Haemato-Oncology department, headed by Professor Ray Powles, CBE. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a relatively aggressive cancer and can quickly spread through the body. Despite this, it is also one of the most easily treated types of cancer and can usually be treated successfully with the following methods:

  • Chemotherapy, which involves the use of chemical agents which are toxic to cancer cells, destroying them and preventing them from spreading to different areas. This can be given by injection or in tablet form
  • Radiotherapy, which is where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells