Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin disease) is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the body’s immune system.
Although Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere, most often it starts in lymph nodes in the upper part of the body. The most common sites are in the chest, neck, or under the arms.
Hodgkin lymphoma most often spreads through the lymph vessels from lymph node to lymph node. Rarely, late in the disease, it can invade the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, and/or bone marrow.
Classic Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) accounts for more than 9 in 10 cases of Hodgkin lymphoma in developed countries.
The cancer cells in cHL are called Reed-Sternberg cells. These cells are usually an abnormal type of B lymphocyte. Enlarged lymph nodes in people with cHL usually have a small number of Reed-Sternberg cells with a lot of normal immune cells around them. These other immune cells cause most of the swelling in the lymph nodes.
Classic HL has 4 subtypes:
- Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma or NSCHL: This is the most common type of Hodgkin disease in developed countries. It accounts for about 7 out of 10 cases. It’s most common in teens and young adults, but it can occur in people of any age. It tends to start in lymph nodes in the neck or chest.
- Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma or MCCHL: This is the second most common type, found in about 4 out 10 cases. It’s seen mostly in people with HIV infection. It’s also found in children or the elderly . It can start in any lymph node but most often occurs in the upper half of the body.
- Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin lymphoma: This sub-type isn’t common. It usually occurs in the upper half of the body and is rarely found in more than a few lymph nodes.
- Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphoma: This is a rare form of Hodgkin disease. It’s seen mainly in older people and those with HIV infection. It’s more aggressive than other types of HL and likely to be advanced when first found. It’s most often in lymph nodes in the abdomen (belly) as well as in the spleen, liver, and bone marrow.
**Content from the American Cancer Society.**