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Steroids

Information about steroid treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, including possible side effects.

What steroids are

Steroids are substances made naturally in the body. They can also be made artificially and used as drugs. Doctors give steroids for many different reasons. And for many different illnesses and conditions. 

Why you need steroids

You might have steroids as part of your chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Some of the treatments are more successful when you have steroids with the chemotherapy drugs.

Steroids can be tablets or injections.

Tablets

You will have tablets to take at home, if you are having steroids as part of your treatment. These are usually prednisolone.

Injections

You might also have steroid injections at the same time as your chemotherapy injections. This is to help control chemotherapy sickness. The steroid drug doctors prescribe for this is usually dexamethasone.

When you have steroids

When you have steroids as part of your chemotherapy, you only take them for a few days or a week at a time. But you will have to take them each time you have a chemotherapy treatment. So you will be taking them now and again for quite a while.

Possible side effects

You will not be taking the steroids for very long without a break and so you are not likely to have bad side effects from them. But there are quite a few side effects you may notice, including: 

  • an increase in your appetite 
  • having more energy 
  • feeling agitated
  • difficulty sleeping
  • indigestion

Steroids can cause water retention. When you have been taking steroids for some time the extra fluid in your body may cause some swelling in your hands, feet or eyelids. You might also put on weight.

Checking for side effects

Your doctor will be looking out for other side effects of your steroids. These include:

  • raised blood pressure
  • increased risk of picking up infections
  • sugar in the urine and higher than normal sugar levels in the blood

Your doctor may ask you to test your urine for sugar at home. This involves dipping a plastic stick into a fresh urine sample and seeing if it changes colour. Or you might need to bring samples to the hospital to be tested.

These side effects are unlikely to happen unless you have been taking steroids for some time. And they are temporary. They will go away when you stop taking the steroids.

Important information

Because your resistance to infection is lowered while you are taking steroids, it is best to try to avoid people with infections, including colds and flu. Make sure you avoid anyone with any other known infectious diseases such as chickenpox.

It is important for any doctor treating you for any reason to know you are taking steroids. So, in case of emergencies you will be given a card to carry to say you are taking steroids. Carry the card with you at all times.

Stopping steroid treatment

Take your steroids exactly as your doctor has told you.

When you take steroid tablets, the higher amounts in your bloodstream stop your body from making its own supply.

Never just stop taking your tablets. You must cut them down gradually with help and guidance from your doctor.

Last reviewed: 
29 Dec 2014
  • Cancer and its management (6th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2010

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