Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What is Hodgkin’s disease?

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections.
The lymphatic system includes the following:

  • Lymph – fluid containing lymphocyte cells.
  • Lymph vessels – thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body. 
  • Lymphocytes – white blood cells that fight infection and disease. 
  • Lymph nodes – bean-shaped organs, found in the underarm, groin, neck, chest and abdomen, that act as filters for the lymph fluid as it circulates through the body.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection and causing swelling in the lymph nodes.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells also can spread to other organs and tissue. A cancer cell that has spread to other organs and tissue is called metastasis. It is a rare disease, accounting for less than 1 percent of all cases of cancer in the U.S. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is diagnosed in about 900 children each year and accounts for nearly 5 percent of childhood cancers. Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs most often in people between the ages of 15 and 34, and in people over age 55. The disease, for unknown reasons, affects males more than twice as often as females.