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8

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

Hodgkin Lymphoma, Version 1.2015

How does Hodgkin lymphoma

start?

Cancer is a disease of cells. Lymphomas are cancers

that start in lymphocytes within the lymphatic system.

Most often these cancers first form in lymph nodes.

There are two main types of lymphomas. Hodgkin

lymphoma is defined by the presence of Reed-

Sternberg or related cells. Reed-Sternberg cells are

large, abnormal lymphocytes that have an “owl-eye”

look. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes all the other

types of lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma is the focus

of this book.

There are classical and rare types of Hodgkin

lymphoma. The classical types consist of Reed-

Sternberg cells and Hodgkin cells. Hodgkin cells

are larger than normal lymphocytes but smaller than

Reed-Sternberg cells. Classical types include nodular

sclerosis, mixed cellularity, lymphocyte-depleted, and

lymphocyte-rich disease.

Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

is the rare type of this cancer. Lymphocyte-

predominant cells are a variant of Reed-Sternberg

cells. They have a unique popcorn shape. Thus, they

are called “popcorn cells.”

Lymphocytes become cancer cells due to changes

within cells. Inside of cells are coded instructions for

building new cells and controlling how cells behave.

These instructions are called genes. Genes are a part

of DNA (

d

eoxyribo

n

ucleic

a

cid), which is grouped

together into bundles called chromosomes.

See

Figure 1.2.

Changes in genes cause normal cells to

become cancer cells. Researchers are still trying to

learn what causes genes to change and cause cancer.

1

Hodgkin lymphoma basics

How does Hodgkin lymphoma start?

Figure 1.2 Genetic material in cells

Most human cells contain the “blueprint of life”—the plan by which our bodies are made

and work. The plan is found inside of chromosomes, which are long strands of DNA that are

tightly wrapped around proteins. Genes are small pieces of DNA that contain instructions for

building new cells and controlling how cells behave. Humans have about 24,000 genes.

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