If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with lymph node cancer, otherwise known as Hodgkin's Lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease, this is one of the cancers you can be encouraged about the prognosis and treatment. This cancer attacks the lymphatic system of the body and was named after the man who discovered it in 1832, Thomas Hodgkin. Lymphoma has one of the highest survival rates, at over 90 percent when diagnosed and treated early.
Lymph node cancer has two relatively high periods of occurrence in young adults between the ages of 15 and 36 and adults over 55. More often found in males than females and Caucasian, two-thirds of the symptoms are noticed and caught in the early stages. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin area, itchy feet and pain from alcohol consumption are some of the most common symptoms. A blood test and a biopsy are used to stage the progression of the disease.
Once it is identified how much cancer has invaded the body, a treatment regimen of radiation and/or chemotherapy is prescribed. Staging is identified from I to IV, and A is non-symptomatic and B is symptomatic. For example, Stage IIIB identifies that the disease is in several lymph nodes and the body is showing symptoms of night sweats and back pain.
Initially radiation was used to treat this disease, but improvements in chemotherapy drugs have brought the survival rate to 98 percent for early stages of treatment (I-III) and 85 percent for Stage IV lymphoma. The standard regimen in the United States is ABVD and Stanford V, which includes a radiation therapy component, and BEACOPP is used in Europe. These drug cocktails are administered by a doctor or oncology nurse in a hospital or office setting over a period from three to six months.
When Can You Say Cured?
Mitchell Smith, M.D., and director of lymphoma service at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, says "Most people will be comfortable with calling you cured in five to 10 years," and that is because 95 percent of patients are disease-free after five years.
Survivorship rates are increasing with more refined treatment regimens. Only your doctor can determine the best course of action to use in treating the disease. With many patients living beyond five years, oncologists look less at the possibility for a recurrence of the same disease. However, this does not eliminate the possibility of another type of cancer occurring.