Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system.
On this page
What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
Types of Hodgkin lymphoma
Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma
Causes of Hodgkin lymphoma
Diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma
Stages of Hodgkin lymphoma
Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma
After Hodgkin lymphoma treatment
Support for people with Hodgkin lymphoma
Access our Hodgkin lymphoma information in other formats
About our information
How we can help
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. This is the system that helps protect your body from infection and disease.
The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is a painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin.
Hodgkin lymphoma can begin in almost any part of the body. But it usually starts in the lymph nodes. The most common area is the lymph nodes in the neck. Different areas of lymph nodes around the body may be affected.
Around 2,100 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK each year. Hodgkin lymphoma can happen at any age. It is 1 of the most common cancers to affect people in their teens and early 20s.
Hodgkin lymphoma is 1 of 2 main types of lymphoma. The other type is called non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). How lymphoma develops and the treatment you may need depends on the type of lymphoma.
For healthcare professionals
If you are a healthcare professional, use our guide to find the right information and support for your patients affected by lymphoma. This explains the support available from Macmillan and from other trusted organisations.
There are two main types of Hodgkin lymphoma. Doctors can find out which type you have by examining some lymphoma cells under a microscope.
Classical Hodgkin lymphoma
This is the most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma. About 9 in 10 (90%) of all Hodgkin lymphomas are this type. There are four sub-types of classical Hodgkin lymphoma, depending on how the cells look under a microscope:
- nodular sclerosing
- mixed cellularity
These sub-types are all treated in a similar way.
Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL)
This is a rarer type of Hodgkin lymphoma. NLPHL develops and is treated differently to classical Hodgkin lymphoma. It tends to be slower growing than classic HL.
Rarely, NLPHL can change into a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). If that happens, it is treated as NHL instead of Hodgkin lymphoma.
If you have symptoms, you usually start by seeing your GP. If they think your symptoms could be caused by cancer, they may arrange for you to have blood tests or scans. Your doctor will refer you to hospital for tests and for specialist advice and treatment.
If you think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor. Some tests and treatments for lymphoma can be harmful to a baby in the womb. If you are pregnant, you can usually still have tests and treatment for lymphoma. But it is important to talk to your doctor so they can plan your care safely..
Biopsy for lymphoma
The most important test for diagnosing lymphoma is a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue or a sample of cells, to be looked at under a microscope.
The tissue is examined under a microscope by a doctor called a pathologist. They look for lymphoma cells and do different tests on the cells.
Further tests for lymphoma
You will have more tests before you start treatment for lymphoma. Some tests help to show the stage of the lymphoma.
For example, your doctor will do blood tests to check the levels of different blood cells in your blood. They may also talk to you about having blood tests to check for certain viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis.
You may have some of the following tests:
Bone marrow sample
Waiting for test results can be a difficult time, we have more information that can help.
Booklets and resources
A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Your doctor or cancer specialist or nurse will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions.
Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma will depend on the stage and type of Hodgkin lymphoma you have. These may include one or more of the following treatments:
Watch and wait
Stem cell transplant
We have more information about treating Hodgkin lymphoma.
You may have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.
People often have many different feelings when they finish lymphoma treatment. You may feel relieved that treatment has finished, but worried about what will happen in the future.
You will have appointments with your lymphoma doctor or nurse less often than before. But at the same time, you may have new challenges to cope with and things to think about.
We have information below about some of the things people ask about after lymphoma treatment. But you may have other questions or need information about something else. If there is something you want to talk about at any point after treatment, you can:
Side effects of lymphoma treatment
You may have some ongoing side effects as you recover from lymphoma treatment. You can use our impacts of cancer A-Z to search for information about managing different symptoms and side effects. Or find out more about side effects of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma or treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Tiredness and fatigue
Sometimes side effects may continue or develop months or years after treatment. These are called late effects. We have more information about long-term and late effects of treatment for lymphoma.
Well-being and recovery
It can take time to recover after lymphoma treatment. Some days you may feel better than others.
It is important to know where to get support or information if you need it. People often need support even some time after lymphoma treatment. But sometimes it is difficult to know who to ask for help. To find support:
- ask your GP or someone from your cancer team for advice about support in your area
- search cancercaremap.org to find cancer support services near you
- call us free on 0808 808 0000 or talk to us online - our cancer information and support specialists can offer guidance and help you find what you need.
Our course Help to Overcome Problems Effectively (HOPE) helps people during and after cancer treatment. It is a free, interactive, group based, self management support course. It runs for 6 weeks, with each weekly session lasting 2.5 hours. To find out more about HOPE courses in your area, email ServiceOpsSupport@macmillan.org.uk
A healthy lifestyle can help speed up your recovery. Even small lifestyle changes may improve your well-being and long-term health.
Booklets and resources
Talk to someone about Hodgkin lymphoma
Everyone has their own way of dealing with illness and the different emotions they experience. You may find it helpful to talk things over with family and friends or your doctor or nurse.
Macmillan can offer emotional, practical and financial help and support. If you would like to talk, you can:
More information and advice
We know cancer can affect you physically, emotionally and financially. We have information and advice about different ways cancer might impact you, such as help with:
Booklets and resources
Other organisations who offer information and support
The organisations below also offer information and support:
Blood Cancer UK
Supporting someone with lymphoma
When someone you know is diagnosed with lymphoma, it can be difficult to know how to support them. You may want information to help you understand what they are going through. Or you may be worried about what to say.
We have information to help with the practical, emotional and financial impacts of supporting someone. You can also talk to us by:
Booklets and resources
We are working to make our website as accessible as possible. We want everyone to be able to use it to find the information they need. We have tips about using settings on your computer or device to help you use our website in our accessibility statement.
We also provide information in a range of languages and formats. If you cannot find the information you are looking for in the format or language you need, email us at email@example.com
Order our Hodgkin lymphoma booklet
It is quick, easy and free to order our booklet Understanding Hodgkin lymphoma on be.Macmillan.org.uk.
Sign up to create your free be.Macmillan account. Log into your account and choose the booklets you want to order. Complete your order and we will send your items in the post.
Find our Hodgkin lymphoma ebook and pdf
If you prefer a pdf, ePub or Mobi version, Understanding Hodgkin lymphoma is available in these formats.
Booklets and resources
Find Hodgkin information in your language
We have a range of translated cancer information. This includes information about different cancer types, being diagnosed, cancer treatment, and side effects. We have some lymphoma information in the following languages. You can also search our most up to date list of web pages we have translated on request.
- Bulgarian - Mantle cell lymphoma / Мантелноклетъчен лимфом [PDF]
- Farsi - Hodgkin lymphoma / لنفوم هوچکین [PDF]
- German - Follicular lymphoma / Follikuläres Lymphom (FL) [PDF]
- Gujarati - Hodgkin lymphoma / હોજકિન લીમ્ફોમા [PDF]
- Polish - Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) / Chłoniak rozlany z dużych komórek B [PDF]
- Polish - Hodgkin lymphoma / Chłoniak Hodgkina [PDF]
- Polish - Lymphoma / Chłoniak [PDF]
- Slovak - Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) / Anaplastický veľkobunkový lymfóm [PDF]
- Slovak - Follicular lymphoma / Folikulový lymfóm [PDF]
- Tamil - Follicular lymphoma [PDF]
If you would like any of our lymphoma information translated into your language, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch British sign language videos
You can watch our BSL videos about cancer on YouTube.
Find our easy read booklets
Our easy read booklets use simple words and pictures to tell you about cancer. They can be useful if you want information that is easier to understand.
Looking for large print, Braille or another format?
Below is a sample of the sources used in our Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.comHodgkin lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2018).
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Blood and bone marrow cancers. NICE Pathways. Last accessed 3 December 2020.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist; and Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.