Hodgkin Disease

What is Hodgkin Disease?

Hodgkin disease (HD) is a type of lymphoma, which is a cancer of the blood that originates in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system works with the immune system and helps to fight infections and get rid of any waste. HD develops in the white blood cells, which help keep the body protected from germs and infections. In people who have HD, the white blood cells (lymphocytes) develop at an abnormal rate and spread beyond the lymphatic system. As the disease progresses, it becomes more difficult for the body to fight infections.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of Hodgkin disease. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Signs and Symptoms

Hodgkin disease symptoms may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Itching 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Tiredness
  • Swollen but painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin 
  • Unintentional weight loss


To determine if someone has Hodgkin disease, we ask about medical history and conduct a physical exam to check for swollen lymph nodes as well as a swollen spleen or liver. We also use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:

Blood tests: The physician will order a complete blood count (CBC), an analysis of the different types of white blood cells, and liver and kidney function tests.

Lymph node biopsy: The physician may remove all or part of a lymph node and examine it for cancer.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of detailed pictures, taken from different angles, are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. This scan can show abnormalities like enlargement of the lymph nodes, spleen and/or liver as well as signs if the cancer has spread.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This scan uses magnetic fields, not X-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. A special dye called a contrast medium can be given before the scan to create a clearer picture. 


Most cases of Hodgkin disease result from a mutation in the DNA of an infection-fighting B-cell, and researchers aren’t sure of the cause.

Risk Factors

Risk factors that can contribute to Hodgkin disease include:

Age: Hodgkin disease is most common in people ages 15 to 30 and older than 55.

A weakened immune system: A compromised immune system – from HIV/AIDS, immunosuppressant medications prescribed for an organ transplant, chemotherapy or certain genetic conditions – increases a person’s risk of developing Hodgkin disease.

Family history: If a close family member was diagnosed with Hodgkin disease or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a person’s risk is slightly increased.

Gender: Hodgkin disease is slightly more common in males.

Past Epstein-Barr infection: People who have had illnesses caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, like infectious mononucleosis, are more likely to develop Hodgkin disease than people who haven’t.


There is no known way to prevent Hodgkin disease.


The earlier that Hodgkin disease is diagnosed, the better the outcome. Advances in diagnosis and treatment of Hodgkin disease have increased the chance for a full recovery.

Treatment and Recovery

Hodgkin disease treatment depends upon how far the condition has progressed, a person’s overall health and his or her preferences. Treatment methods may include:


Chemotherapy uses special drugs designed to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered as a pill or injected into the bloodstream.

Radiation Therapy

This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Most often, radiation treatments are given five days a week for several weeks. 

Stem Cell Transplant

A stem cell transplant replaces diseased cells with healthy cells that grow new bone marrow. A stem cell transplant may be considered if Hodgkin disease returns despite treatment. During a stem cell transplant, a person’s blood stem cells are removed, frozen and stored before he or she undergoes high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The stem cells are then thawed and injected into the body.


Hodgkin disease can recur, so follow-up care after successful treatment is important. In addition, the cancer itself and some treatments can result in complications. These include: 

Cardiovascular and/or lung disease: The risk of developing these diseases is higher among people who have had Hodgkin disease.

Infertility: Chemotherapy and/or radiation can cause temporary or permanent infertility in some cases.

Other cancers: People who have had Hodgkin disease are slightly more likely to develop lymphoma, leukemia or other cancers in the future.

Weakened immune system: This complication of Hodgkin disease can become worse during treatment and can make a person more vulnerable to infections.

Next Steps with MyChart

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