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Types of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

Men and women discussing Hodgkin's lymphoma

This page tells you about the treatments available for Hodgkin lymphoma. There is information about

 

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Types of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

When Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed a team of doctors and other professionals work together to decide on the best treatment for each person. Treatment is usually very successful and many people are cured. How much treatment you need depends on the stage of your lymphoma. And your doctor takes into account whether or not you have B symptoms, the type of Hodgkin lymphoma you have, your general health, and your age.

Early stage Hodgkin lymphoma (Stage 1 to stage 2A)

If you have early stage disease, you will probably have a short course of chemotherapy. Your doctor may then also recommend radiotherapy to the affected lymph nodes.

Advanced stage Hodgkin lymphoma (Stage 2B to stage 4)

For advanced stage disease, you are most likely to have chemotherapy with or without steroids. You may also have radiotherapy.

Treating Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back

If your lymphoma comes back after treatment (relapses), you may have high dose chemotherapy treatment with bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Or your doctor may suggest more chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

If your lymphoma does not respond

Sometimes Hodgkin lymphoma does not respond to treatment as well as your doctor would hope. If this happens to you, your doctor may suggest high dose chemotherapy treatment with bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Or they might add in more treatment or change your chemotherapy drugs.

 

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The main treatments

The treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease) is usually very successful and many people are cured. How much treatment you need depends on the stage of your disease.

The main types of treatment are

Some people only need one type of treatment. Others need a combination of treatments. You may have steroids alongside chemotherapy, depending on which chemotherapy drugs you are having. People with the rare lymphocyte predominant type of Hodgkin lymphoma may have a type of biological therapy called rituximab.

 

Planning your treatment

Your doctor takes a number of things into account when deciding your treatment

Age is included because large trials have shown that people over 50 do not always do as well as younger patients and so may need more intensive treatment.

B symptoms (fevers, sweating and weight loss) are included in the staging for Hodgkin lymphoma. If you have these, your doctor will add a B to the number stage of your disease. So stage 2 with B symptoms, means you have stage 2B Hodgkin lymphoma. If you don't have these symptoms, your stage would be 2A.

When deciding on treatment, doctors group the stages of Hodgkin lymphoma together. They call anything up to stage 2A early disease. Stages 2B and above are classed as advanced disease.

Before you start treatment your doctor or specialist nurse may recommend that you have flu and pneumonia vaccinations. The vaccinations help to protect you from these infections if you have low immunity during treatment.

 

Early stage Hodgkin lymphoma

Early stage means the lymphoma is only in 1 group of lymph nodes (stage 1). Or it may be in 2 groups but they are on the same side of your diaphragm and you have no fevers, night sweats or unexplained weight loss (stage 2A).  

If you have early stage disease, you will probably have a short course of chemotherapy. Your doctor may then recommend radiotherapy to the affected lymph nodes. You may also have radiotherapy to your spleen or other lymph nodes. If you have very early, localised disease and are not able to have chemotherapy for any reason, you may just have radiotherapy to the affected lymph nodes.

 

Advanced stage Hodgkin lymphoma

Advanced stage means that the lymphoma is on both sides of your diaphragm (stage 3), or in body organs (stage 4).

For advanced stage disease, you are most likely to have chemotherapy with or without steroids. You may also have radiotherapy to particular groups of lymph nodes if they are very enlarged or causing troublesome symptoms.

 

If your lymphoma comes back

If your lymphoma comes back after treatment (relapses), you may have high dose chemotherapy treatment with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Or your doctor may suggest more chemotherapy or radiotherapy, depending on the treatment you have already had.

 

If your lymphoma does not respond

Sometimes Hodgkin lymphoma does not respond as well to initial treatment as your doctor would hope. If this happens to you, your doctor may suggest high dose chemotherapy treatment with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Or they might add in more treatment – for example, radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy. Or they could change your chemotherapy drugs.  

 

Your treatment team

When lymphoma is diagnosed, several doctors and other health professionals work together to decide on the most appropriate treatment. The team of doctors and health professionals is called a multi-disciplinary team (MDT). The members of the team specialise in different areas of Hodgkin lymphoma treatment and support. The team usually includes the following people.

  • A medical oncologist (a specialist in drug treatment for lymphoma)
  • A pathologist (a specialist in cancerous blood cells)
  • A transplant specialist
  • A clinical oncologist (a specialist in radiotherapy)
  • A specialist cancer nurse
  • A pharmacist, social worker, psychologist and counsellor
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Updated: 13 June 2013