suman rao md

Suman Rao, MD, hematologist, meets with a patient at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center for an evaluation

Lymphomas are cancers that grow in the cells of the immune system, the body's defense system against disease and infection. There are two major kinds of lymphoma:

Hodgkins Lymphoma

Hodgkins disease, also known as Hodgkins lymphoma, is a less common form of lymphoma. It is a malignant cancer of lymphoid tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and bone marrow. The diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma depends on having abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells.

The causes of Hodgkins Lymphoma remain unknown, but an impaired immune system and exposure to carcinogens, pesticides, herbicides, viruses, and bacteria may be factors. Individuals infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mononucleosis) and who have a family history of Hodgkin's disease may have a higher risk.

Symptoms associated with Hodgkins disease include:

  • The first sign of this cancer is often an enlarged lymph node that appears without a known cause. The disease can spread to nearby lymph nodes and later may spread outside the lymph nodes to the lungs, liver, bones or bone marrow.
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching
  • Excessive skin blushing/flushing
  • Pain in the neck or side
  • Hair loss
  • Clubbing of the fingers or toes
  • Enlarged spleen

Be aware that other conditions or diseases can cause these symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

When a patient presents with symptoms that might suggest Hodgkin's lymphoma, our MedStar Health specialist will take a complete medical history and perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsies: During a biopsy, a small sample of bone marrow and/or bone is taken from the hip or another large bone so doctors can look at its make-up in order to find any signs of abnormal changes.Two common types of biopsy used to help diagnose blood cancers and diseases include:
    • Bone marrow aspiration: The sample of bone marrow is taken by putting a thin needle into the bone and removing a sample of the marrow.
    • Bone marrow biopsy: A sample of both the bone and bone marrow is taken from the bone with a thick needle.
  • Hodgkin's disease is always diagnosed with a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node.

Treatment is different for every patient. Our team at MedStar Health works with patients to develop individualized treatment plans, using a comprehensive approach to cancer treatment. Hodgkin's disease is often treated with a combination of:

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is a cancer of lymphoid tissue (lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs of the immune system) that can be slow or fast growing. For most patients, the cause is unknown, but lymphoma can develop in people with a suppressed immune system, such as after organ transplantation.

Risk Factors

Non-Hodgkins tumors occur more frequently than Hodgkins lymphoma. More often, non-Hodgkins lymphoma affect people older than 50. High-risk groups include organ transplant recipients and immunosuppressed people. Environmental factors, including exposure to certain chemicals, including some pesticides, solvents, or fertilizers could be a risk factor.

The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm or groin. Other symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained fever
  • Night sweats
  • Constant fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Reddened patches on the skin

Second Opinion

Getting a second opinion means asking a lymphoma specialist, aside from your initial physician, to review your medical reports and test results and then provide a diagnosis and treatment recommendations. The specialist may confirm your initial diagnosis and treatment recommendations, provide additional treatment options, or even give more details about your type and stage of lymphoma. Even if you’ve already had treatment, it’s not too late to get a second opinion. To get a second opinion contact our lymphoma specialists by calling us at 877-715-HOPE.

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 1-877-715-HOPE.

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

Bel Air Oncology Center
12 MedStar Boulevard
Bel Air, MD 21015
Phone: 410-515-6400

Learn More

Hematologic cancer

Call Us Today

To find a cancer care specialist: