Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Actor Michael C. Hall, star of the television series Dexter, announced on Jan. 13, 2010, that he has undergone successful cancer treatment. The 38-year-old performer revealed in a statement that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, sometimes referred to as Hodgkin's lymphoma, and is now in remission following treatment.
Hodgkin's disease is a relatively rare form of cancer that arises from cells of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the body's immune system and contains a network of lymphatic vessels that course throughout the body as well as the organs important for immune protection, including the lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, thymus, and bone marrow. Hodgkin's lymphoma accounts for only 1% of all cancers in the U.S.
Hodgkin's disease can start anywhere in the body, usually taking the form of painless, enlarged lymph nodes. From its origin, it tends to spread in a predictable fashion to adjacent groups of lymph nodes and can eventually spread throughout the body. Other symptoms that may be associated with Hodgkin's lymphoma are unexplained fevers, night sweats, and weight loss.
Doctors do not understand why Hodgkin's disease develops in some people. Men are more commonly affected than women, and two age groups (15-34 years of age and those over 55) are most often affected. Those with a family history of the condition have a greater risk, and studies have suggested that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be related to its development, even though the vast majority of people who have been infected with EBV never develop Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Even though its cause is poorly understood, successful treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma have been in existence for many years. In contrast to some cancers (such as malignant brain tumors and cancer of the pancreas) that are associated with a very high rates of death, Hodgkin's disease is a potentially curable form of cancer, particularly when diagnosed and treated early in the course of the disease.
Treatment for Hodgkin's disease includes a combination of radiation and/or chemotherapy. These treatments have the same risks and often unpleasant side effects as chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to treat other cancers. The exact type and extent of treatment necessary is primarily determined by the stage (extent of spread) of the cancer when it is detected and the presence of any associated symptoms.
In his statement, actor Hall commented that he feels thankful to have been diagnosed with an "imminently treatable and curable" condition and will continue his work with the popular television series.