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Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma

What is childhood Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is a growth of abnormal white blood cells that form tumors in the lymph system. The lymph system includes the lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and other parts your immune system. This disease can occur in one lymph node, in a group of nodes, or in an organ. It can then spread to almost any part of your child's body.

Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the many types of lymphoma. Other types of lymphomas are called non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The type of lymphoma is determined by how the cancer cells look under a microscope.

Hodgkin lymphoma, sometimes called Hodgkin disease, is one of the most curable cancers. The sooner cancer is found and treated, the better your child's chances for recovery. However, even advanced cancer can usually be treated. Treatment may slow or stop the growth of the cancer and ease symptoms for a time. Ask your healthcare provider what you can expect with the type of cancer that your child has.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. Unlike normal white blood cells, the abnormal white cells caused by non-Hodgkin lymphoma don't protect your body from infections or other diseases.

Hodgkin lymphoma is most common in teens, adults up to age 35 and adults age 55 and older.

There is a slightly higher risk for Hodgkin lymphoma if:

  • Your child had infectious mononucleosis (mono), an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
  • You have close relatives (parent, brother, or sister) with Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Your child has a weakened immune system.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes, in the neck, armpits, or groin
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Itching
  • Tiredness

How is it diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and examine your child. Your child may have a lymph node biopsy, which uses a needle passed through the skin to take a small sample of tissue for testing. If Hodgkin lymphoma is found, more tests will be done to learn the stage or the extent of the disease. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the lymph nodes
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the lymph nodes
  • PET scan, which is a kind of X-ray that uses a radioactive material injected into a vein to show detailed pictures of the cancer
  • A bone marrow biopsy, which uses a needle passed through the skin to take a small sample of tissue for testing

How is it treated?

You and your healthcare provider will discuss possible treatments for your child. You may also talk with a cancer specialist. Treatment decisions will take into account:

  • Your child's age
  • Your child's overall health
  • The stage of the cancer (how advanced the cancer is)
  • Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your child's body

Possible treatments are:

  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells
  • Stem cell or bone marrow transplant, which uses your child's own cells or cells from a donor.

Your child's treatment will also include:

  • Preventing infections
  • Controlling pain or other symptoms
  • Controlling the side effects from treatments
  • Helping your child and your family cope with cancer

Often, more than 1 type of treatment is used. Your child will need to have regular follow-up visits with his or her healthcare provider.

Ask your healthcare provider about clinical trials that might be available to your child. Clinical trials are research studies to find effective cancer treatments. It’s always your choice whether your child takes part in one or not.

How can I take care of my child?

If your child has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Talk about your child’s cancer and treatment options with your child’s healthcare provider. Make sure you understand the treatment choices.
  • Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s provider.
  • Ask your child’s provider:
    • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
    • How long it will take your child to recover
    • What activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
    • How to take care of your child at home
    • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them
  • Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

It may also help if your child:

  • Eats a healthy diet and gets regular exercise and rest.
  • Takes time for activities that he enjoys. Tells you or his provider if treatment causes discomfort. Usually there are ways to help your child be more comfortable.

Counseling and support groups can help children and parents cope with the situation and help the family adjust to the changes in their lives.

What can be done to help prevent the cancer from spreading or coming back?

Your child should:

  • Complete the full course of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy treatments ordered by your healthcare provider.
  • Have regular checkups.
  • See a healthcare provider right away if there is a return of any previous symptoms, or if new symptoms develop.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-12-12
Last reviewed: 2012-04-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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