Hodgkin's disease, a type of cancer of the lymphatic system. First identified in 1832 in England by Thomas Hodgkin, it is a type of malignant lymphoma. Incidence peaks in young adults and the elderly. There is some evidence that it is caused by an infection (the Epstein-Barr virus is sometimes present), and studies of twins suggest a hereditary susceptibility. In addition, exposure to the defoliant, Agent Orange, has been strongly linked to Hodgkin's disease and other lymphomas.
The first sign is often enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpit. Lymph node biopsy shows the multinucleated Reed-Sternberg cells peculiar to the disease. It spreads from node to node in an orderly fashion. Symptoms include itching, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Because it affects the lymphatic system, the body becomes less able to fight off infection as the disease progresses. Radiation therapy and combinations of chemotherapeutic agents are used in treatment. By the 1990s most newly diagnosed cases were curable.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.