What Is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in certain white blood cells (B cells) in the lymphatic system. An essential part of the body’s immune system, B cells produce antibodies, which are special proteins that protect the body against illness by fighting off bacteria, viruses and other invaders. Lymphoma causes the B cells to undergo cancerous changes that make them grow and multiply uncontrollably.

Where in the body does Hodgkin lymphoma develop?

Most often, Hodgkin lymphoma originates in lymph nodes in the chest, underarms, abdomen or pelvis. Lymph nodes are bean-sized collections of B cells that are connected to each other via the lymphatic system, which extends throughout the entire body. By traveling through the lymphatic system, lymphoma can spread among lymph nodes and also to other tissues and organs.

Does Hodgkin lymphoma always originate in lymph nodes?

In addition to lymph nodes, Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in other sites of lymphoid tissue, such as the:

  • Spleen – Located underneath the ribs on the left side of the body, the spleen produces B cells, stores healthy blood cells and filters damaged blood cells, bacteria and other waste from the body.
  • Bone marrow – New B cells and blood cells are produced by this soft fatty tissue contained within bone cavities.
  • Thymus – This small organ, which is situated behind the breastbone in front of the heart, plays a role in B cell development.
  • Tonsils and adenoids – Located at the back of the throat, these small collections of lymphoid tissue create antibodies to fight germs that are breathed in or swallowed.
  • Digestive tract – The stomach, intestines and other digestive organs also contain lymphoid tissue.

If you have further questions about Hodgkin lymphoma, you are welcome to reach out to the multispecialty team in the Malignant Hematology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. Request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. A referral is not required.