A painless swelling of one or more lymph nodes is the most common sign of Hodgkin’s disease. The lymph nodes in the groin, abdomen, neck, or armpit are most commonly affected. A lump can be felt on either side of the neck, in the groin, in the armpit, or above the collarbone. Because enlarged lymph nodes are also a sign of infection, a doctor may observe them for a period of weeks to see if they change in size.
If swelling occurs in the abdomen, the patient may appear to be pregnant due to fluid collection or swollen lymph nodes. This abdominal swelling also may cause constipation.
Other symptoms of Hodgkin's disease include:
- Excessive sweating or night sweats
- Weight loss; loss of appetite
- Bone/flank pain
- Severe itchiness
- Coughing, shortness of breath, suffocation
- Constant tiredness
- Red patches on the skin
- Enlarged spleen
- Pain in lymph node after drinking alcohol
Patients experiencing generalized symptoms such as weight loss, night sweats, fever, and itchiness (referred to as B symptoms ) may have an increased number of cancer cells. While these symptoms do not necessarily mean that a patient has Hodgkin's disease, patients who have been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and are experiencing B symptoms typically have more advanced disease and a poorer prognosis.
Infection may play a role in Hodgkin's disease. In particular, tuberculosis, Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV; the virus that causes mononucleosis), H. pylori infection, human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV), and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) have been linked to Hodgkin’s disease. However, it is unclear whether or not any of these infections directly cause Hodgkin’s disease.
Hodgkin's disease may be hereditary. People who have brothers or sisters with Hodgkin's disease have a higher-than-average incidence of developing the disease.
In most cases, Hodgkin's disease affects people who are 15 to 35 or 50 to 70 years of age.
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