Saturday, October 15, 2005

What is Hodgkin's Disease?

So, who's this opponent of mine in the ring? Well, I'll tell you. . . . Hodgkin's Disease (also known as Hodgkin's Lymphoma) is a type of cancer, which affects the lymphatic sytem of the human body. Because Hodgkin's Disease begins in the lymphatic system, which is a part of the body's immune system, it is classified as a lymphoma. Hence, it's other name - Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The other major lymphoma is Non-Hodgkin's Disease. Although it was first described in 1666 by Marcello Malpighi, it is named after the 19th century English scholar, Thomas Hodgkin, who first documented the illness extensively.

Hodgkin's Disease is not a common cancer. Of all the cancer patients worldwide only about 1% have Hodgkin's Disease. However, in light of the supposed links or causes of the illness, doctors aren't 100% sure what causes it. The implicated risk factors are: the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mononucleosis or mono), a sibling who had Hodgkin's Disease, and individuals between the ages of 16 and 34 and 55 and above are at an increased risk of developing the disease. It's important to state that none of these risk factors are iron-clad, because one individual may have one or more of the aforementioned risk factors but not develop the disease, whereas someone else with absolutely none of the risk factors will develop it. So, you see. Go figure. Your guess is as good as mine.

What are the disease's symptoms? Generally they are night sweats, unexplained weight loss, recurrent fevers, itchy skin, and/or a painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin. These symptoms could, however, be related to something entirely different so having these symptoms doesn't mean one has Hodgkin's Disease or more generally, cancer. In fact, I didn't possess any of the noted symptoms. When I was diagnosed I was what doctors call asymptomatic. Symptomatic is represented by "B" and asymptomatic is represented by "A." In addition to discovering if the patient has any symptoms, a doctor will also "stage" the extent of the illness. Staging is done to find out how localized or widespread the cancer is in the body. Staging ranges from a Stage 1, in which case the cancer is localized to one lymph node, to a Stage 4 in which case the cancer is extensive and spread to different parts of the body. Upon my first diagnosis in 2003, I was determined to be Stage 2A. At the time of my relapse, however, I was determined to be Stage 1A. There are 4 types of Hodgkin's Disease. My type is called nodular sclerosis, the most common kind, and the location of my tumor is in the area of the chest called the mediastinum (the area between the lungs).

Hodgkin's Disease is a curable type of cancer. About 80% of first time Hodgkin's patients are cured. Success rates, however, are lower after a relapse. There are different ways of treating a patient with this illness. The patient may receive either chemotherapy or radiotherapy or both of them. The treatment chosen depends on the location of the lymphoma, its stage, and the overall health of the patient. Surgery isn't an option generally. During the first go-around I was given six cycles of ABVD chemotherapy treatment, which was then followed by treatments of radiation to my upper chest. The combined chemotherapy-radiotherapy treatment worked. I was in remission, but it didn't cure me. I had what is called a relapse or recurrence (which is not uncommon) within 2 years.

This brings me to my present situation. For someone who has received chemotherapy and/or radiation but relasped and who is in good overall health, the standard treatment is high-dose chemotherapy and a peripheral blood stem-cell transplant (PBSCT) or bone marrow transplant (BMT). I will receive PSCT in the coming weeks. Rather than try to explain the complexity of a PBSCT or BMT at this time, you can learn more about them at the following links:

For more specific information about lymphoma and Hodgkin's Disease, please explore the following websites:


Comment Anonymous Mike said...

I posted a link to your blog on my site at


6:42 PM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duane, I am very proud of you for posting this to help others in spite of how you are feeling. This just states what I have always known about how you care for humanity.


Loraine Halliday

12:41 PM  

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