Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Hodgkin's lymphoma signs and symptoms may include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained, rapid weight loss
  • Itching
  • Increased sensitivity to the effects of alcohol or pain in your lymph nodes after drinking alcohol

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.

Causes

It's not clear what causes Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Doctors know that most Hodgkin's lymphoma occurs when an infection-fighting cell called a B cell develops a mutation in its DNA. The mutation tells the cells to divide rapidly and to continue living when a healthy cell would die. The mutation causes a large number of oversized, abnormal B cells to accumulate in the lymphatic system, where they crowd out healthy cells and cause the signs and symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Various types of Hodgkin's lymphoma exist. The type is based on the types of cells involved in your disease and their behavior. Your type determines your treatment options.

Classical Hodgkin's lymphoma

Classical Hodgkin's lymphoma is the more common type of this disease. It can be broken down further into subtypes. People diagnosed with classical Hodgkin's lymphoma have large, abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells in their lymph nodes.

Subtypes of classical Hodgkin's lymphoma include:

  • Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin's lymphoma

Lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin's lymphoma

This much rarer type of Hodgkin's lymphoma involves large, abnormal cells that are sometimes called popcorn cells because of their appearance. Treatment may be different from the classical type. People with this type of Hodgkin's lymphoma may have a better chance of a cure when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.

Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of Hodgkin's lymphoma include:

  • Your age. Hodgkin's lymphoma is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 30, as well as those older than 55.
  • A family history of lymphoma. Having a close family member who has Hodgkin's lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma increases your risk of developing Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Your sex. Males are slightly more likely to develop Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Past Epstein-Barr infection. People who have had illnesses caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, such as infectious mononucleosis, are more likely to develop Hodgkin's lymphoma than are people who haven't had Epstein-Barr infections.