Hodgkin lymphoma: Teenagers and young adults

Introduction

This section is for teenagers and young adults and is about a type of cancer called Hodgkin lymphoma.

It’s important to remember that treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma has a very good success rate and most people are cured.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is one of the body’s natural defenses against infection.

Lymphomas, like all cancers, are a disease of the body’s cells. Normally cells in our body divide and grow in a controlled way. But sometimes cells keep dividing and grow out of control. This is how cancer develops.

In lymphomas, white blood cells called lymphocytes become abnormal and grow out of control. These lymphocytes can build up in one part of the body and form a lump (tumour).

There are two main types of lymphoma:

Although these cancers are both lymphomas, they are different and need different treatments. Your doctors will do tests to find out which type you have.

Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms is having a painless lump. The lump is caused by swollen lymph nodes. There may be one or more lumps and these may be in your neck, armpit or groin.

Lumps can also be inside the body. A common place would be inside the chest and this can cause a cough or breathlessness.

Some people feel tired and lethargic with lymphoma. Itching of the skin is also quite common.

Some people with Hodgkin lymphoma have other symptoms such as high temperatures, very heavy sweats (especially at night) and unexplained weight loss. Doctors call these symptoms ‘B symptoms’.

Most of the symptoms that people get with lymphoma may also be caused by other illnesses. For example swollen lymph nodes, high temperatures and sweats may be caused by an infection. But if you have any of these symptoms or are worried that you may have Hodgkin lymphoma, go to your GP. They'll examine you and refer you to a hospital if they think you need to see a specialist doctor.

Causes

We don't know what causes Hodgkin lymphoma, but research is going on to try to find out. Remember, though, it isn't anything that you’ve done.

Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in young people over the age of 10. About 1 in 6 of all cancers affecting young people between 15 and 24 is a Hodgkin lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma isn’t infectious and can’t be passed on to other people or family members.

If you’re looking for information about Hodgkin lymphoma in people of all ages, please see our general Hodgkin lymphoma section.