Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Doctor Tells Us If The Disease Is Deadly & If It Can Be Cured Completely

    Most people know of only one circulatory fluid in the body, which is blood. However nature has put another fluid that travels through a complex and intricate system of channels. This fluid doesn’t provide nutrition like blood, but rather is involved in the protection of the body. The protective fluid is called lymph, and the system that carries it is called the lymphatic system. Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes.

    What Is The Lymphatic System

    The lymph system consists of lymphatic channels through which the lymph flows. There are checkpoints in the channels known as lymph nodes. You might have heard of inflammation of the nodes in relation to infection.

    Role Of The Lymphatic System 

    The lymphatic system plays the following roles in the human body:

    • absorbs fat from the intestines (via structures called microvilli in the small intestines)
    • produces and releases lymphocytes (white blood cells) to destroy 
    • transports toxins and wastes from the lymph 
    • maintains the levels of tissue fluid

    The main role of the lymphatic system is to fight infections. Lymph contains white blood cells i.e. lymphocytes while the lymph nodes capture and destroy microorganisms (bacteria and viruses).

    What Is Lymphoma?

    The term lymphoma means cancer of the lymphocytes (a type of WBCs that play a role in immunity). Lymphocytes can exit the normal division cycle and become cancerous, leading to a condition known as lymphoma. Cancer can impact different organs connected by lymphatic channels i.e. spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.

    Types Of Lymphoma 

    Lymphoma is classified to two types:

    What Is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

    Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) differs from the non-hodgkin type of lymphoma on the basis of microscopic examination of the lymphocytes. The blood cancer is declared as HL  if the pathologist finds specific Reed-Sternberg cells under the microscope.

    As per a study, HL is mostly diagnosed in people between 20-30 years of age and is associated with lymphadenopathy (swelling of lymph nodes).

    Signs And Symptoms Of Hodgkin Lymphoma

    HL may present itself in the form of a swollen lymph node that feels like a lump that isn’t painful. The most common regions of lymph nodes involved are:

    • Under the armpits
    • Around the groin region
    • Side of the neck

    There may be systemic B symptoms (specific symptoms that are related to lymphomas) associated with the swollen lymph node that should be immediately reported to a doctor:

    • Fever and fatigue
    • Night sweats
    • Enlargement of spleen 
    • Abrupt weight loss
    • Persistent respiratory symptoms ( cough, chest pain)

    Is Hodgkin Lymphoma Deadly?

    Hodgkin lymphoma is a serious condition whose severity relies on the stage at which it is diagnosed. The progression of the disease determines the treatment strategies and the survival rate.

    The stages of hodgkin’s lymphoma are:

    1. Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 1

    This is an early stage where the cancer exists only in one area of an organ/lymph node region. As per the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate of stage 1 is about 90 percent.

    1. Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 2 

    The diaphragm is a muscle found beneath the lungs. This muscle is taken as a reference point to determine the extent of cancer. In this locally advanced stage, cancer exists within two lymph node areas on the same side of the diaphragm cancer is present in one lymph node region and a nearby organ.The five-year survival rate for this stage is also about 90 percent.

    1. Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 3

    In this advanced stage, cancer is found on both sides (above and below) of the diaphragm, or in one lymph node/organ and the opposite side of the body. The survival rate of stage 3 after 5 years of treatment is about 80 percent.

    1. Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 4 

    Widespread disease is the most progressed from where the cancer is found out of the lymph nodes and widely spread into other parts of the body (lungs, and liver). 65 percent of Stage 4 HD patients can survive after a successful five-year treatment plan. 

    Can Hodgkin Lymphoma Be Cured Completely?

    The mainstay of hodgkin lymphoma  is radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is a modality of killing cancer cells that involves high doses of radiations to kill the cancer. In most cases, radiotherapy is sufficient to kill the cancerous cells.

    Chemotherapy uses the injection of chemotherapeutic agents such as doxorubicin, bleomycin, etc.  According to research, even advanced stages can be cured with a combination-therapy of radio and chemotherapy. Another trial suggested that the drug pembrolizumab is efficacious in treating hodgkin lymphoma.

    Immunotherapy commonly known as stem cell transplantation is reserved for patients who do not respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In this procedure, healthy stem cell transplants are injected into the body in an attempt to replace the cancerous cells. 

    Combined treatment with chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant is the best for patients who relapse after initial treatment, a study suggests.

    The seriousness of the treatment and the survival rate of the patient depends on the stage of the lymphoma at which treatment is begun. You can get rid of hodgkin lymphoma successfully with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and stem cell transplantation. It can be deadly if left untreated or undiagnosed.

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