Hodgkin lymphoma

Find out about Hodgkin lymphoma, symptoms to look out for, how it’s diagnosed and how it’s treated.

  • Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops when certain types of white blood cells stop working properly
  • It’s one of the more common cancers in 13-24 year olds
  • Common symptoms can include a lump in your neck, armpit or groin, sweating at night, losing weight and feeling tired all the time
  • Hodgkin lymphoma is usually diagnosed with a biopsy of the lump
  • It’s usually treated with chemotherapy, sometimes combined with radiotherapy.

What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

Also called Hodgkin disease, Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in 13-24-year-olds.

Hodgkin lymphoma develops in the lymphatic system – a network of glands and thin tubes that run through your body.

If you have Hodgkin lymphoma, certain types of white blood cells in your lymphatic system – called Reed-Sternberg cells – stop working properly.

The cells multiply and collect around glands and other parts of the lymphatic system, causing tumours to form.

The Hodgkin bit of the name comes from Thomas Hodgkin – the doctor who discovered this type of cancer.

Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms

The most common sign of Hodgkin lymphoma is a lump in your neck, armpits or groin that may or may not be painful.

Other symptoms are:

  • sweating at night
  • a high temperature
  • losing weight
  • feeling tired a lot of the time
  • feeling itchy a lot of the time
  • coughing
  • breathlessness
  • pain or vomiting when you drink alcohol

Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer. They can be caused by other issues which are also good to get checked out.

Angel headshot

How is Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed?

The only way to know if the problem is caused by Hodgkin lymphoma is by having a biopsy.

This means giving you a local anaesthetic (where part of your body is made numb), taking cells from the tumour using a needle and then looking carefully at the cells under a microscope for signs of cancer.

You may also have the whole lump taken out to look at, in which case you’ll be given a general anaesthetic.

You can find out more about biopsies in our Getting diagnosed section.

How do you treat Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is quite an aggressive type of cancer, but its treatment has a high success rate.

The exact treatment depends on how far the cancer has spread, but it normally involves chemotherapy, sometimes combined with radiotherapy.

You might also be given steroid tablets or injections as part of your chemotherapy treatment.

Find out more about cancer treatments.

The information on this page is more than three years old.