The motivation of the Mario Lemieux Foundation has always been to find a cure for cancer through funding research. We have provided over $15M for cancer research, primarily focused on blood cancers, and we have ongoing projects at the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and at the Mario Lemieux Lymphoma Center for Children and Young Adults at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Mario had Hodgkin’s disease – what is Hodgkin’s disease?
Hodgkin’s disease is a cancer that develops in the lymph system, part of the body’s immune system. It represents approximately eight percent of all lymphomas and is considered one of the most curable forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate is 81 percent today; the survival rate in 1960 was only 40 percent. Learn more
There are two kinds of lymphomas: non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s. Both types of lymphoma have similar symptoms and characteristics, which include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss.
To diagnose which type of lymphoma you may have, your physician may order a blood test. A pathologist will view the blood sample under a microscope to determine which white cells are behaving abnormally. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is distinguished by the presence of abnormal white blood cells called Reed-Sternberg cells.
What Is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma occurs when abnormal white blood cells (lymphocytes) over-multiply and overwhelm the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system.
Doctors diagnose about 75,000 people in the United States with lymphoma each year.
Lymphoma often begins in the lymph nodes. But, because lymph tissue is present in many organs and structures, it can arise from nearly any location in the body.
Types of Lymphoma
The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s.
People of any age can get either type, but:
• Hodgkin’s tends to affect younger people between the ages of 15 and 35.
• Non-Hodgkin’s affects mainly those over 60 years of age.
The classic type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma accounts for about 95 percent of all cases. It's the result of the invasion of the lymph nodes by large, abnormal lymphocytes — called Reed-Sternberg cells.
Classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma includes four subtypes, which differ in the location of origin.
Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s disease is rare.
This type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma often begins in the lymph nodes in the neck or underarm. It affects more men than women.
Several subtypes of this lymphoma stem from abnormalities in different white blood cells — B cells, T cells, and NK cells.
The most common forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma begin in B cells:
• Diffuse large B cell lymphoma progresses rapidly.
• Follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer.
Two types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma begin in the white blood cells of the skin: mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome.
A very rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — called primary central nervous system lymphoma — begins in the white blood cells of the: Eye, brain, or spinal cord.
Prognosis depends on:
• The lymphoma type • How early doctors detect the disease • Your response to treatment
Lymphomas tend to form slowly, meaning that people can live for years without showing symptoms. By the time doctors discover the cancer, a person may be quite ill.
Early detection and treatment of lymphoma can mean a better outcome.
Risk Factors for Lymphoma
Common risk factors for lymphoma include:
• Age — people between 15 to 35 years old and those over 55 may be at increased risk for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. People over the age of 60 may be at risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
• Weakened immune system — low immune functioning (due to a medical condition or from immunosuppressant drugs after organ transplant) can increase risk.
• Certain viruses — viruses like Epstein-Barr or HIV can increase lymphoma risk.
For more information, please visit the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers page at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.