Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Disease
Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma is a form of childhood cancer in which malignant cancer cells begin to grow within the lymph system. The lymph system plays a critical role in the body’s immune system, which, when functioning properly, keeps us well by fighting bacteria, viruses, and other foreign disease-causing invaders. The lymph system is a network of tissues found throughout the body and connected by tube-like lymph vessels. Critical parts of the lymph system include:
- Lymph nodes: small, bean-like sacs found throughout the body, responsible for clearing the body of germs and cell waste. Lymph nodes can be found in the neck, armpit, abdomen, pelvis, and groin.
- Lymphocytes: a type of white blood cell responsible for fighting infection and disease. Lymphocytes can be either B cells or T cells; most Hodgkin lymphomas start in B cell lymphocytes.
- Lymph: a colorless fluid that carries lymphocytes through lymph vessels around the body.
- Spleen: an organ located near the stomach, responsible for making lymphocytes, filtering blood, and storing and destroying blood cells.
- Thymus: an organ located in the chest, responsible for storing lymphocytes as they grow and multiply.
- Tonsils: Small masses of lymph tissue found at the back of the throat, responsible for making new lymphocytes.
- Bone marrow: located within the center of large bones, the bone marrow creates white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
Hodgkin Lymphoma almost always begins in B lymphocytes. Classical Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells and can be further divided into four sub-types, dependent on the appearance of the cancer cells under a microscope:
- Lymphocyte-rich classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphoma.
A much more rare form of Hodgkin lymphpoma is known as Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma and is characterized by lymphocyte-predominant cells instead of Reed-Sternberg cells. This type of cancer may, in some cases, evolve into diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
Incidence of Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children
Unlike most forms of childhood cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma can develop similarly in both children and adults. In children, Hodgkin lymphoma makes up about 6% of all childhood cancers. In the United States, it occurs most often in adolescents aged 15-19 years and least often in children under the age of 4, although in developing countries, children under 10 have a much higher incidence of Hodgkin lymphoma while the incidence for adolescences is similar to that in the United States. Within adolescents in the United States, more girls than boys develop Hodgkin lymphoma, while for children under 5, the disease is much more likely to develop in boys.
Five-year survival rates for Hodgkin lymphoma have increased greatly over the past 30 years, with many adolescents especially responding well to chemotherapy and low-dose radiation therapy similar to adult protocols for the same disease. The five-year survival rate for Hodgkin lymphoma is now close to 95%, although as with all forms of childhood cancer, the prognosis for each specific child/adolescent depends greatly on the unique nature of the cancer and the “stage” the cancer has reached at the time of diagnosis. Moreover, Hodgkin lymphoma survivors are at high risk of long-term health problems stemming from the necessary adult-focused treatment options.
About American Childhood Cancer Organization
American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) is a non-profit charity dedicated to helping kids with cancer and their families navigate the difficult journey from cancer diagnosis through survivorship. Internationally, ACCO is the sole U.S. member of Childhood Cancer International (CCI), the largest patient-support organization for childhood cancer in the world. Here in the United States, ACCO promotes the critical importance of ensuring continued funding into new and better treatment protocols for childhood cancer. And most importantly, ACCO is focused on the children: developing and providing educational tools for children fighting cancer and their families, empowering them in their understanding of childhood cancer and the medical decisions they must make during this difficult journey. All of ACCO’s resources are available free of charge for families coping with childhood cancer.