Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
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Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the body's immune system. Lymphoma develops from white blood cells called lymphocytes
Hodgkin lymphoma can begin in almost any part of the body. But it usually starts in the lymph nodes. The most common area is the lymph nodes in the neck. Different areas of lymph nodes around the body may be affected.
We have more information about how lymphoma develops.
Around 2,100 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK each year. Hodgkin lymphoma can happen at any age. It is one of the most common cancers to affect people in their teens and early 20s.
We have separate information about another lymphoma called non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
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There are two main types of Hodgkin lymphoma. Doctors can find out which type you have by examining some lymphoma cells under a microscope.
Classical Hodgkin lymphoma
This is the most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma. About 9 in 10 (90%) of all Hodgkin lymphomas are this type. There are four sub-types of classical Hodgkin lymphoma, depending on how the cells look under a microscope:
- nodular sclerosing
- mixed cellularity
These sub-types are all treated in a similar way.
Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL)
This is a rarer type of Hodgkin lymphoma. NLPHL develops and is treated differently to classical Hodgkin lymphoma. It tends to be slower growing than classic HL.
Rarely, NLPHL can change into a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). If that happens, it is treated as NHL instead of Hodgkin lymphoma.
If you have symptoms, you usually start by seeing your GP. If they think your symptoms could be caused by cancer, they may arrange for you to have blood tests or scans. Your doctor will refer you to hospital for tests and for specialist advice and treatment.
If you think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor. Some tests and treatments for lymphoma can be harmful to a baby in the womb. If you are pregnant, you can usually still have tests and treatment for lymphoma. But it is important to talk to your doctor so they can plan your care safely..
Biopsy for lymphoma
The most important test for diagnosing lymphoma is a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue or a sample of cells, to be looked at under a microscope.
The tissue is examined under a microscope by a doctor called a pathologist. They look for lymphoma cells and do different tests on the cells.
Further tests for lymphoma
You will have more tests before you start treatment for lymphoma. Some tests help to show the stage of the lymphoma.
For example, your doctor will do blood tests to check the levels of different blood cells in your blood. They may also talk to you about having blood tests to check for certain viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis.
You may have some of the following tests:
Bone marrow sample
Waiting for test results can be a difficult time, we have more information that can help.
A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Your doctor or cancer specialist or nurse will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions.
Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma will depend on the stage and type of Hodgkin lymphoma you have. These may include one or more of the following treatments:
Watch and wait
Stem cell transplant
We have more information about treating Hodgkin lymphoma.
You may have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.
You will have regular follow-up appointments after your treatment. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you may have at these appointments. Your doctor will want to know how you are feeling, and to check you are recovering from any side effects of treatment.
Sometimes side effects may continue or develop months or years after treatment. These are called late effects. We have more information about long-term and late effects of treatment for lymphoma.
Sex life and fertility
Cancer and its treatment can sometimes affect your sex life. There ways to improve your sexual well-being and to manage any problems.
Treatment for lymphoma may affect your fertility. If you are worried about your fertility it is important to talk with your doctor before you start treatment. We have more information about:
Everyone has their own way of dealing with illness and the different emotions they experience. You may find it helpful to talk things over with family and friends or your doctor or nurse.
Macmillan can offer emotional, practical and financial help and support. If you would like to talk, you can:
The organisations below also offer information and support:
Blood Cancer UK
Lymphoma Action gives emotional support, advice and information for people with Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma and those close to them. It has a national network of people with lymphoma, as well as local groups. Their website has a section called trialslink where you can see information about lymphoma clinical trials.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.orgHodgkin lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2018).
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Blood and bone marrow cancers. NICE Pathways. Last accessed 3 December 2020.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist; and Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.