A malignant disease of the lymphatic system. When affected by this cancer, the lymph nodes---which are present in many parts of the body and play an important role in immunity---enlarge, sometimes to the point where they cause pressure on adjacent structures. The cancer cells also may invade the spleen and liver and cause them to enlarge. The disease is not painful in the early stages, although there is fever, weight loss, malaise (a general feeling of being unwell), anemia, and sometimes itching of the skin.

Hodgkin's disease affects two men for every woman and is seen most often between the ages of 15 and 35 and after the age of 50. Why the whole lymphatic system is affected by malignant growth is unknown. A viral cause for Hodgkin's disease has been suspected but not proved.

The nodes in the neck, groin, and armpit first draw attention to the condition, usually because they do not settle after an infection in the normal way. Chest X-ray studies show lymph node enlargement in the chest; superficial lymph nodes feel tense and rubbery as they grow over a period of weeks and become matted together.

The disease is treated with radiation and chemotherapy; newer combinations of anticancer drugs are being tried constantly with increasing success. Most patients can now be cured. For localized Hodgkin's disease, radiation is the treatment of choice. Combination chemotherapy is used for more advanced disease. The prognosis is good, even for persons with advanced Hodgkin's disease.