Understanding Hodgkin lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects your lymphatic system (part of your immune and circulatory systems). Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin disease, begins in lymphocytes (white blood cells). These cells help protect you from infections and other health problems. But diseased cells don’t do their job well. Instead, they keep dividing and form a mass, or tumor. Over time, tumors might spread to other places, such as your bones, liver or lungs.

Hematologic, or blood-related, cancer specialists at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center treat common and rare types of Hodgkin lymphoma. We are Wisconsin’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. Our expert care begins with a careful diagnosis, and we are committed to using the most advanced treatments. We are also a leader in lymphoma research, which allows us to offer promising new treatments through clinical trials.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Detecting Hodgkin lymphoma

Many times, a swollen lymph node is the first sign of Hodgkin lymphoma. It might occur in your armpit, groin or neck. Other symptoms can include:

  • Appetite loss

  • Fever

  • Itchiness

  • Night sweats

  • Weight loss

If doctors think you might have lymphoma, they will do a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing a lymph node, or part of a lymph node, from your body. They then look at the node under a microscope for signs of cancer.

There are different types of lymphoma, and knowing the exact type you have is key to getting the best treatment. At the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center, experienced doctors perform our biopsies and pathologists who specialize in detecting lymphoma study them. They also review biopsies performed elsewhere.

In many cases, our expert pathologists change or clarify diagnoses made in other hospitals. Clarified diagnoses can sometimes result in a different prognosis, and can also lead to a different treatment plan. The correct diagnosis is all about helping you get the best possible care.

Meet our team

A team of specialists makes a difference

At the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center, we know cancer can affect all parts of your life. So, we’ve put together a team of specialists to help you during each stage of your cancer journey.

Your team includes specialized doctors who focus on your physical well-being. But we also have experts who focus on other areas, such as your mental health, family concerns and financial needs. They make sure the care you receive will be just right for you and your disease.

Team members might include:

  • Health psychologists

  • Hematologic nurses

  • Hematologic oncologists

  • Hematopathologists

  • Nutritionists

  • Radiation oncologists

  • Social workers

Treatments and research

Personalized cancer care

What doctors learn about your cancer from your biopsy will guide your treatment plan. The goal is to find the treatment that will work best and be safest for you.

Hodgkin lymphoma treatments

In most cases, we treat Hodgkin lymphoma with chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of the two. We also might offer treatment to help manage tumor-related side effects and preserve fertility.

This treatment uses powerful drugs to attack cancerous cells. The drugs travel throughout the body with the goal of killing any diseased cells.

Learn more

Our specialists use the most advanced high-energy rays and other forms of precise radiation to kill cancer cells.

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This procedure addresses difficult-to-treat Hodgkin lymphoma. It involves replacing unhealthy lymphocytes with healthy stem cells. You first receive high doses of chemotherapy to kill the cancerous cells. Then doctors introduce the new healthy cells. The cells come from your own body or from someone else’s, or from umbilical cord blood.

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The UW Carbone Cancer Center is a national leader in lymphoma research. As we learn more about Hodgkin lymphoma, our experts can offer promising new treatments through clinical trials. These treatments might not be available at other cancer centers.

Find a clinical trial


Care close to home

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center provides care throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Not all cancers are treated at every location; however, we will make every effort to connect you with care at a location convenient to you.

Patient and support services

Online informational resources

For more information about Hodgkin lymphoma, visit: