Hodgkin’s lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s disease, is a cancer of lymph tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and other sites.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is characterized by the presence of a special type of lymphatic cell called a Reed-Sternberg (RS) cell. These cells are giant lymphocytes derived from B-cells. Because they are larger than healthy B-lymphocytes, and they often look like “owl’s eyes,” diagnosis is easily made when cells are examined under a microscope.
The first sign of this cancer is often an enlarged lymph node which appears without a known cause. The disease can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Later it may spread to the spleen, liver, bone marrow, or other organs.
The cause is not known. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common among people ages 15 – 35 and 50 – 70. Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus is thought to contribute to most cases. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were approximately 8,510 new cases in 2009.
Hodgkin’s disease is considered one of the most curable forms of cancer, especially if it is diagnosed and treated early. Unlike other cancers, Hodgkin’s disease is often very curable even in late stages.
With the right treatment, more than 90% of people with stage I or II Hodgkin’s lymphoma survive for at least 10 years. If the disease has spread, the treatment is more intense but the percentage of people who survive 5 years is about 90%.
Patients who survive 15 years after treatment are more likely to later die from other causes than Hodgkin’s disease.