Hodgkin disease, also known as Hodgkin lymphoma, is a type of cancer that begins in the white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes fight disease in the body and are transported through the lymph system. Lymphoma describes the type of cancer that causes abnormalities in lymphocytes, making them function improperly and multiply uncontrollably. Early signs of Hodgkin disease may include swollen lymph nodes on the upper half of the body.
Hodgkin disease often starts in lymph nodes of the chest, neck, and underarms. Since it develops in the lymph system that connects lymph nodes around the body, it is a cancer that easily metastasizes or spreads.
There are two main types of Hodgkin disease: classical Hodgkin lymphoma and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Classical Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common type, accounting for 95% of all Hodgkin disease cases, and is characterized by abnormal lymphatic cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma begins in a variant of the Reed-Sternberg cells that are often referred to as “popcorn cells” because of their shape.
Hodgkin Disease Facts and Statistics
- In 2015, there will be an estimated 9,050 new cases of Hodgkin disease , 3,950 in women and 5,100 in men.
- There will be approximately 1,150 deaths from Hodgkin disease in 2015, 490 in women and 550 in men.
- In 2015, there are about 177,526 people in the United States living with or in remission from Hodgkin disease.
- Hodgkin disease is most common in young adults in their 20s and in people over the age of 55.
- Hodgkin disease is very treatable; the one-year survival rate is about 92%, and the five-year survival rate is about 85%
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Hodgkin disease is rare. The most common symptom of this disease is, swollen lymph nodes. However, this symptom is also common with other diseases. To make an accurate and timely diagnosis, doctors need to know the risk factors associated with this disease process. Risk factors include:
- Being male, and being either between 20-30 years old or over 55
- Epstein-barr virus—having a history of this virus, known to cause mononucleosis or “mono” in young adults, increases the risk of Hodgkin disease
- Having a personal or family medical history of Hodgkin disease or other infections of the lymphatic system
Hodgkin disease most commonly occurs in the lymph nodes of the upper body, and the most notable sign of the disease is a swollen or enlarged lymph node. Other symptoms include:
- Persistent, painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin
- Fever and chills
- Night sweats
- Pain in lymph nodes after consuming alcohol
- Itchy skin
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Enlarged spleen
- Abdominal problems like nausea and indigestion
- Chest pain or persistent cough
Diagnosing Hodgkin Disease
The first step in diagnosing any disease or condition is obtaining an understanding of the patient's full personal and family medical history, and completing a physical examination.
If Hodgkin disease is suspected, the doctor will need to do a biopsy, or tissue sample, to determine if cancerous cells are present. Doctors can also take blood samples, and can order imaging scans like a CAT, MRI, or PET scan to determine the location and size of the tumor.
Hodgkin Disease Treatment
The two primary treatment options for Hodgkin disease are radiation and chemotherapy.
A third treatment option is bone marrow transplant, aimed at helping the body create healthy white blood cells. All blood cells in the body are created in the bone marrow. Hodgkin disease distorts the healthy functioning of white blood cells, and causes malformed white blood cells to over-produce. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments destroy cancer cells and surrounding tissue, thereby depleting the bone marrow. Stem cells and bone marrow transplants can help regenerate bone marrow.
Malpractice in Hodgkin Disease
Although Hodgkin disease is one of the most treatable cancers, its symptoms are common to many other diseases and conditions, making it more likely to be misdiagnosed.
Since the lymphatic system is involved in Hodgkin disease, this cancer can spread quickly to other lymph nodes and other parts of the body. This can reduce a patient's chance of recovery. Treatment can be further complicated in cases where the cancer is not timely diagnosed or when proper testing is not timely performed.
If the doctor fails to timely diagnose and treat the cancer and if that negligence causes harm to the patient, the doctor can be held accountable. In such instances, patients may be entitled to compensation.
If your Hodgkin disease has been mishandled by a health care provider, contact the offices of Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation. Our skilled attorneys have the experience and knowledge you need to succeed.