What is Childhood Hodgkin's Lymphoma?
Hodgkin's lymphoma - or Hodgkin's Disease - is a type of cancer that occurs in the lymph system, which is part of the body's immune system. The other major type of lymphoma is Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Although lymphomas rarely occur in children, they are treated differently than in an adult patient, and therefore are described separately. For more information on adult lymphomas, please see Adult Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Cancer occurs due the abnormal growth of cells within the lymph system. The lymph system is made up of thin tubes that branch, like blood vessels, into all parts of the body. Lymph vessels carry lymph, a colorless, watery fluid that contains white blood cells called lymphocytes. Along the network of vessels are groups of small, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarm, pelvis, neck, chest, and abdomen. The lymph nodes make and store infection-fighting cells. The spleen (an organ in the upper abdomen that makes lymphocytes and filters old blood cells from the blood), the thymus ( a small organ beneath the breastbone), and the tonsils (lymph tissue in the throat) are also part of the lymph system.
The primary difference between Hodgkin's disease and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is the presence of a specific abnormal cell named Reed-Sternberg cells.
There are no known risk factors associated with childhood Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is extremely rare in children under the age of five, and in children under the age of ten, it seems to occur more often in boys than in girls.
Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck or underarm area that doesn't go away within a few weeks
Unexplained weight loss
These symptoms may be indicative of cancer, or of other, less serious conditions. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, he/she should see their doctor.
Diagnosing Childhood Hodgkin's Lymphoma
If symptoms are present, your child's doctor will perform a complete physical exam and may prescribe additional tests to find the cause of the symptoms. Tests may include a chest x-ray, CT (or CAT) scan, and/or a biopsy.
If cancer is detected, your child's doctor will prescribe additional tests to determine the type and stage (progress) of the disease.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your child's doctor will work with you and your child to determine the best treatment plan. Treatment will be dependent upon the type and stage of the disease, as well as your child's age and general health. Current treatment options may include chemotherpay or radiation.