Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that develops when lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) become out of control. They divide in an abnormal way or do not die when they should. HL was identified in the 1830s by the English doctor Thomas Hodgkin after two scientists called Reed and Sternberg studied tissue samples of people with Hodgkin lymphoma and found a particular type of cell was always present.

This cell is now called the Reed-Sternberg cell and it is larger in size than other lymphocytes. It is the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells that distinguishes Hodgkin lymphoma from other types of lymphomas.

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Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) Fact Sheet PDF

Overview of Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL)

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is usually an aggressive (fast growing) B-cell lymphoma.  HL accounts for approximately 15% of all B-cell lymphoma cases (10% of lymphomas overall) and affects around 650 Australians each year. 

Why is it called Hodgkin lymphoma?

  • It develops from abnormal B-cell lymphocytes
  • Hodgkin lymphoma was named after the doctor who first described the condition named Dr Thomas Hodgkin (in 1832) 
  • In Hodgkin lymphoma, a particular type of abnormal cell, that is unusually large, malignant (cancerous) mature B-cell called Reed-Sternberg cells (named after the scientists who discovered it), can be seen under the microscope in tissue samples. 
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphomas do not contain this type of cell. 
  • All lymphomas that were discovered after Hodgkin lymphoma were called a ‘non-Hodgkin lymphoma’ NHL accounts for 90% of lymphomas and over 70 different subtypes of lymphoma that all behave and are treated differently.

Who is affected by Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)?     

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) affects both males and females equally.  Hodgkin lymphoma is most common in people aged 15 -29 years, with a second peak later in life after the age of 70 years although it can occur at any age. 

Scientists do not know exactly what causes Hodgkin lymphoma, although there are different risk factors that may be associated.  It is important to note that not all people who have these risk factors will develop HL.

Types of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)

There are two main types of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), called classical HL and nodular lymphocyte depleted Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL).

Classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) includes four subtypes, all of which are treated in the same way.  These are known as:

  • Nodular sclerosis classical Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Mixed cellularity classical Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-rich classical Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-depleted classical Hodgkin lymphoma

Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL) is a subtype of Hodgkin lymphoma that is very rare, accounting for around 5% of HL cases.  NLPHL also behaves differently and is treated differently from classical Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) is an aggressive (fast-growing) B-cell lymphoma, 

usually treated with the aim to cure.  cHL usually responds very well to standard first-line treatment with chemotherapy and almost 90 percent of patients achieve a complete metabolic response (CMR) or go into remission (no sign of detectable lymphoma).  Young patients can achieve a better outcome than the older age group.  

Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL):  is a rare subtype (around 5% of all Hodgkin lymphoma), that is usually an indolent (slow-growing) B-cell lymphoma.  NLPHL is treated according to what stage the lymphoma is at diagnosis and what symptoms are present.  NLPHL can respond very well to treatment and possible long-term side effects of treatment will be considered as part of the treatment plan. 

Children and young adults with Hodgkin lymphoma

The treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) will also be dependent on the age of the patient and whether they are referred for treatment at either a children’s cancer centre or an adult cancer centre.

For more info see
Hodgkin lymphoma in children and young people

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