Lymphoma - Hodgkin - Childhood: Introduction

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma. Use the menu to see other pages. Think of that menu as a roadmap for this entire guide.

Hodgkin lymphoma, previously called Hodgkin’s disease, is a type of lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Lymphoma begins when cells in the lymphatic system change and grow out of control, which may form a tumor.

About the lymphatic system and lymph nodes

The lymphatic system is made up of thin tubes that branch out to all parts of the body. Its job is to fight infection and other diseases. The lymphatic system carries lymph, a colorless fluid containing lymphocytes, which are white blood cells. Lymphocytes fight germs in the body. B-lymphocytes, which are also called B cells, make antibodies to fight bacteria. T-lymphocytes, or T cells, kill viruses and foreign cells and trigger the B cells to make antibodies.

Groups of bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes are located throughout the body at different areas in the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are found in clusters in the neck, chest, underarms, abdomen, pelvis, and groin. Other parts of the lymphatic system include the:

  • Spleen, which is located in the left upper abdomen, under the rib cage. The spleen makes lymphocytes and filters the blood.

  • Thymus, which is an organ located behind the breastbone. The thymus plays an important role in the development of T cells.

  • Tonsils, which are located in the throat. The tonsils help trap bacteria entering through the mouth or nose.

See a medical illustration of the parts of the lymphatic system in children.

Hodgkin lymphoma most commonly affects lymph nodes in the neck or the area between the lungs and behind the breastbone, which is called the mediastinum. It can also begin in groups of lymph nodes under the arms, in the groin, or in the abdomen or pelvis.

If Hodgkin lymphoma spreads, it typically spreads along the lymphatic channels to other lymph nodes and the spleen. It may also spread outside of the lymphatic system, most commonly to the lungs, liver, bone marrow, or bone.

Types of Hodgkin lymphoma

It is important to know the specific type of Hodgkin lymphoma that is diagnosed because this may affect the recommended treatment plan. Doctors find out the type of Hodgkin lymphoma based on how the cells in a tissue sample look under a microscope and whether the cells contain abnormal patterns of certain proteins. There are 2 main types of Hodgkin lymphoma: nodular lymphocyte predominant and classical.

Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. This disease is usually found in the neck, underarm, or groin. Risk factors for the disease include being younger and/or male.

Classical Hodgkin lymphoma. There are 4 subtypes of classical Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma. This is the most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma in teens and young adults in the United States and in other developed countries. Tumors are often very bulky. They most often begin in the lymph nodes in the neck, chest, or abdomen and may spread to the lungs.

  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma. This type is more common in children age 10 years or younger. It shows the strongest link to the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes mononucleosis. It usually begins in the lymph nodes in the abdomen or in the spleen.

  • Lymphocyte rich Hodgkin lymphoma. This type is rare and may be hard to distinguish from nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. It usually begins in the lymph nodes of the neck, underarm, and groin, and it sometimes involves the spleen and lymph nodes in the chest.

  • Lymphocyte depleted Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a very rare, aggressive type that is uncommon in children. This type is usually more widespread, involving lymph nodes as well as the bones and bone marrow.

This section covers Hodgkin lymphoma in children and teens. Learn more about adult Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children.

The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain the number of children and teens diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and general survival rates. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.