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Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections. The lymphatic system also helps maintain the fluid balance in different parts of the body by bringing excess fluid back into the bloodstream.
The lymphatic system includes the following:
- Lymph – fluid containing white blood cells, especially those called lymphocytes
- Lymph vessels – thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body
- Lymphocytes – white blood cells that fight infection and disease
- Lymph nodes – bean-shaped organs, found in the underarm, groin, neck, chest, abdomen and other parts of the body, that act as filters for the lymph fluid as it circulates through the body
Hodgkin lymphoma causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection and causing the lymph nodes to swell. Hodgkin lymphoma cells also can spread (metastasize) to other organs and tissue. It is a rare disease, accounting for about 4 percent of all cases of childhood cancer in the U.S. Hodgkin lymphoma occurs most often in people between the ages of 15 and 40, and in people over age 55. About 10 percent to 15 percent of cases are found in children and teenagers. The disease, for unknown reasons, affects males more often than females.
The specific cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. It is possible that a genetic predisposition and exposure to viral infections may increase the risk for developing Hodgkin lymphoma. There is a slightly increased chance for Hodgkin lymphoma to occur in siblings of patients.
There has been much investigation into the association of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes the infection mononucleosis. This virus has been correlated with a greater incidence of children diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, although the direct link is unknown.
There are many individuals, however, who have infections related to EBV who do not develop Hodgkin disease.
We have three full-time pediatric hematologist/oncologists affiliated with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children's Hospital. They treat cancer and bleeding disorders in children and diagnose and provide all of your child’s treatments right here in the Lehigh Valley. Our pediatric oncology practice is part of the Children's Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute coalition of more than 230 children's hospitals. This gives you access to the latest therapies and national clinical trials.