Hodgkin Lymphoma Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is one of the most curable types of cancer. Under the microscope, “Reed- Sternberg cells” are visible, this distinguishes Hodgkin from other types of lymphoma. HL is also different from non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) by the way it presents itself and how it behaves.

For example, the spread of HL usually follows a predictable pattern from one group of lymph nodes to another, whereas the affected nodes in NHL tend to be distributed throughout the body. Also, HL is rarely found outside of the lymph nodes, while NHL will frequently exist anywhere. For these reasons, HL is often a disease that is easier to treat and manage than NHL. It is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 15-25 or over the age of 50, and more likely to affect men than women.

Woman scratching at her neck
Getty Images 

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck, chest, and armpits
  • Feeling more tired than usual or generally unwell
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever without signs of an infection
  • Cough or feeling short of breath
  • Night sweats that soak the bedclothes
  • Itchy skin
  • Pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol

These symptoms can also be present in many other, non- cancerous conditions. If you are concerned about symptoms you are experiencing, you should seek advice from your healthcare provider.

Risk Factors

As with many types of cancer, the exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known. Many people who have risk factors will never develop the disease, and some lymphoma patients have no known risks.

Some possible risk factors may include:

  • A history of infectious mononucleosis (“mono”) or Epstein Barr virus infections
  • Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Obesity and lack of physical activity
  • Family history of Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is different from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the way it appears under the microscope, but also in how it progresses and spreads. It is a highly treatable form of cancer. As a result, your healthcare team will want to ensure an accurate diagnosis, so that you can get the best treatment for your disease.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Hillier, E., and Munker,R. (2007) Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In Munker,R., Hillier,E., Glass,J. et al (eds.)Modern Hematology: Biology and Clinical Management- 2nd edition. (pp.225-237). Totowa, New Jersey: Humana Press Inc.
  • Horning,S. (2006). Hodgkin Lymphoma. In Lichtman,M., Beutler,E., Kipps,T. et al (eds.)Williams Hematology- 7th edition. (pp.1461-1483). New York, New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.