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Hodgkin lymphoma

If you have lymphoma, it means your body is making too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Your lymphocytes also live longer than they should.

This overload compromises your immune system and stops other cells in your blood from doing their job too. There are two types of lymphocytes, B cells and T cells; Hodgkin lymphoma (sometimes called Hodgkin’s disease) develops from B cells.

Lymphomas are grouped into stages based on how far they have spread in the body. This enables doctors to give the most effective treatment because lymphomas of different stages will respond differently. In general, staging is applied to all types of lymphoma – however, there are a few exceptions. A different system is used for skin lymphomas.

Hodgkin lymphoma can be identified by the presence of abnormal cells called 'Reed-Sternberg' cells. These cells have a distinct large shape when looked at under a microscope.

Lymphoma Action has more information about Hodgkin lymphoma on their website.

Hodgkin lymphoma facts

Hodgkin lymphoma

Cell type: 
B cells, a type of white blood cell

2,100 / year in the UK

UK transplants:
218 in 2019

Most common in people aged between 15-25, and over 50

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant

Other information:
Defined by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells

Lymphoma ActionBlood Cancer UK

Hodgkin lymphoma and stem cell transplants

Doctors will normally only offer you a transplant if you’ve had other treatment first and the lymphoma has come back. You’re more likely to have an autologous transplant - when doctors use your own stem cells. This provides the best chance of keeping your lymphoma in remission for longer, and causes fewer complications, because a stem cell donor isn’t needed. 

You may then have a second transplant if you relapse. This will be an allograft transplant  – when stem cells are donated by someone else.

Your medical team may consider offering you an allograft transplant straight away if:

  • You’ve already had treatment but it didn’t work
  • Your lymphoma has returned quickly
  • You have a type of lymphoma that doctors feel isn’t likely to respond well to normal chemotherapy

Living with Hodgkin lymphoma

I was 22 when I was diagnosed with blood cancer. It all started with a lump in my neck. I wasn’t too concerned, but when that lump was taken out, the doctors discovered that it was Hodgkin lymphoma.

Jo, who had a stem cell transplant to treat Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012. Read her story here

Many more patient stories are available in our Blogs section.

Information published: 09/02/21
Next review due: 09/02/24

Related links

Preparing for a stem cell transplant

Having a stem cell transplant

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