Lymphatic system is an essential part of immune system that helps our body to stay toxin-free. It consists of white blood cells known as ‘lymphocytes’ that prevent infections and germs from entering our body. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a dreadful disease that comes in existence due to production of abnormal cancerous lymphocytes in an individual’s body. Patients suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma must seek a prompt medical assistance. Otherwise, it may weaken their complete body and lead to life-threatening health issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
The following list describes some major signs and symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Swelling – Patients struggling with an underlying Hodgkin’s lymphoma may experience swelling in their armpit, neck or groin region.
- Extreme Tiredness – Patients suffering from this disease may feel tiredness or fatigue without any particular reason.
- Night Sweats and Fever – Frequent episodes of night sweats and fever is the most prominent warning sign associated with Hodgkin’s lymphoma disease.
- Unexplained Weight Loss – Patients who have undergone a sudden and heavy weight loss should visit an experienced doctor for accurate diagnosis. Such dramatic changes in body may appear due to presence of cancer.
- Painful Lymph Nodes – Patients who encounter severe pain in their lymph nodes especially after drinking alcohol may be suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Enlarged Spleen – Enlargement of spleen is one of the most common symptoms of underlying Hodgkin’s lymphoma disease.
Causes and Risk Factors for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
There are no known causes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, medical experts state that mutation in cell’s DNA may give rise to this disease. In addition to this, the following risk factors may also fuel up the possibility of occurrence of this disease.
- Age and Gender – This disease most commonly affects people in between 15 to 30 years of age group as well as over age of 55. Men are more prone to developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma as compared to women.
- HIV Infection – Patients suffering from HIV infection are at greater risk of getting Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Medications – Patients who have undergone organ transplantation and consume immunosuppressant medicines have a greater likelihood of getting Hodgkin’s lymphoma as compared to others.
- Family History of Disease – Patients who have a family history of lymphoma are likely to develop it in future. Such patients must indulge in regular health checkups for ensuring their safety.
- Being Overweight – Obesity can give rise to a large number of medical issues including Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Therefore, obese or overweight patients should try to maintain a normal weight.
- Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) – Patients who had previously encountered ailments due to Epstein-Barr virus are at higher risks of getting Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Types of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma solely relies on its type and severity. The below-mentioned points give out the two major types of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – This category of Hodgkin’s lymphoma accounts for majority of cases. Classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs due to formation of some abnormal cells in lymphatic system that are clinically referred to as ‘Reed-Sternberg’ cells.
- Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – This type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rarely observed in patients. This type of disease occurs due to development of large-sized abnormal cells. These cells are known as ‘popcorn cells’ as they appear similar to popcorn.
Diagnosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Patients must reach out to doctors who are well-versed in performing Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment. During initial meeting, respective oncologists may ask patients regarding the cause of distress. They may further ask regarding their medical history and advise them to undergo the given diagnostic treatments.
- Physical Evaluation – Doctors may thoroughly evaluate patient’s armpits and neck area in order to see whether they have any abnormal swelling in this region.
- Blood Tests – Doctors may conduct blood tests for identifying the presence of cancerous cells in patient’s body.
- Imaging Tests – Patients may be asked to undergo several imaging tests such as computerized tomography test (CT scan), x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI scan).
- Biopsy Test – Biopsy test involves taking a small sample of cells from patient’s bone marrow in order to figure out severe abnormalities.
These diagnostic medical procedures allow doctors to clearly inspect severity of disease and patient’s overall medical status.
Stages of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
There are four stages of Hodgkin’s lymphoma on the basis of which doctors will outline an appropriate treatment plan.
- Stage 1 – This is the primary stage where harmful cells are limited to only area of patient’s lymph nodes either above or below diaphragm.
- Stage 2 – During this stage, cancer may spread to two or more than two lymph nodes on either side of patient’s diaphragm.
- Stage 3 – This is an advanced stage of Hodgkin’s lymphoma which appears when entire lymph node region including both upper and lower sides of diaphragm gets affected due to cancerous cells.
- Stage 4 – This is terminal or end stage of Hodgkin’s lymphoma where cancerous cells do not just affect lymph nodes but other body parts as well. Chances of patient’s survival in this stage are extremely less.
Treatment Options for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
The given points describe major Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment options. Respective oncologists choose most befitting treatment plan for providing successful outcomes.
- Early Stage Treatment (Stage 1 and Stage 2) – The following treatments are mainly used during stage 1 and 2 of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Chemotherapy – This procedure involves use of certain drugs that are capable of destroying abnormal cells present in patient’s body. Doctors mostly refer these drugs to as ‘chemo drugs’. They may ask patients to take them either orally or they may directly inject them into their body.
- Radiation Therapy – This is a painless yet powerful technique that can be used for wiping out unwanted harmful cells due to presence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in patient’s body. It involves a device that emits high-intensity radiations which kill the cancerous cells as well as stop the development of new abnormal cells.
- Later Stage Treatment (Stage 3 and Stage 4) – Doctors are likely to perform the given treatments for later stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Bone Marrow Transplant – Popularly referred to as ‘stem cell transplantation’, bone marrow transplant is latest medical procedure that can effectively destroy cancerous Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells and tissues. During this procedure, respective oncologists take out healthy stem cells from patient’s own body and store it in a sophisticated laboratory for future purpose. Once it is done, they may perform radiation therapy or chemotherapy for killing the undesired cells. When all these treatments are complete, doctors inject the previously stored cells back in patient’s body for improving their health condition.
Risks and Complications Associated with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment
The following points elaborate some of the major risks and complications associated with Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment.
- Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy – Patients may experience problems such as hair loss, diarrhea, persistent nausea, uncontrolled pain, loss of appetite and depression following their radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Bone Marrow Transplant – Patients may get severe infection or encounter issues like mouth sores, anemia, thyroid problems, lung or bone damage, fatigue and another cancer after completion of bone marrow or stem cell transplant procedure.
Patients must discuss each and everything with respective oncologists before taking decision to undergo any type of treatment. They must clear their doubts and ask for possible solutions for minimizing such risks.
Recovery Following Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment
Complete recovery time will depend on patient’s overall health and particular type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment. Patients may be asked to follow a healthy routine and eat a balanced diet following their treatment in order to recover faster. It is quite natural for patients to get depressed and feel alone or unworthy at times. They must spend time with their family and dear ones for overcoming such phase of depression. They may also consult psychologists in order to relieve their emotional baggage and speed up healing process.
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