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Hodgkin's disease - Hodgkin's lymphoma
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Hodgkin's disease - Hodgkin's lymphoma

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CANCER

Lymphoma

 

Causes

The exact cause of Hodgkin's lymphoma is still unknown. A key step in Hodgkin's disease involves the development of abnormal B cells, a type of lymph cell that is an important part of your immune system's response to foreign invaders. B cells normally work with T cells, which derive from the thymus, to fight infection. T cells kill foreign invaders directly. B cells become plasma cells, which in turn produce antibodies that neutralize foreign invaders.

In most cases of Hodgkin's disease, B cells develop into large abnormal cells. These abnormal, cancerous cells are called Reed-Sternberg cells after the two pathologists who first discovered them. Instead of undergoing the normal cell cycle of life and death, these Reed-Sternberg cells don't die, and they continue to produce abnormal B cells in a malignant process. Doctors and researchers don't know what causes this process to begin.

People between the ages of 15 and 34, as well as those over 55, are most at risk of Hodgkin's disease. Also, anyone with a brother or a sister who has the disease faces an increased risk of developing Hodgkin's.

Hodgkin's disease is among a group of cancers called lymphomas — cancers of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes (lymph glands), which are located throughout the body and are connected by small vessels called lymphatics. The spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow also are part of the lymphatic system.

Hodgkin's disease commonly begins in the lymph nodes, which are located throughout the body. Some lymph nodes are in areas more readily noticed such as in the neck, above the collarbone, under the arms or by the groin. Enlarged lymph nodes in the chest and abdomen also are common. Lymphomas may spread outside the lymph nodes to virtually any part of your body.

 

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