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Find out what ABVD is, how you have it and other important information about having ABVD.

ABVD is the name of a chemotherapy combination. It includes the drugs:

  • A – doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • B – bleomycin
  • V – vinblastine
  • D – dacarbazine (DTIC)

It is a treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma.

How it works

These chemotherapy drugs destroy quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

How you have it

You have ABVD into your bloodstream (intravenously).

Drugs into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm or hand. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

When you have it

You have ABVD chemotherapy as cycles of treatment, each lasting 4 weeks (28 days). You might have between 2 and 8 cycles, taking 2 to 8 months in total.

You have:

  • doxorubicin as an injection into your bloodstream (intravenously) twice each cycle
  • bleomycin as a drip into your bloodstream twice each cycle
  • vinblastine as a drip into your bloodstream twice each cycle
  • dacarbazine as a drip into your bloodstream twice each cycle
Day 1
  • doxorubicin as an injection into your bloodstream (intravenously)
  • bleomycin as a drip into your bloodstream over 30 minutes
  • vinblastine as a drip into your bloodstream over 5 minutes
  • dacarbazine as a drip into your bloodstream over 30 minutes

You then have a 2 week break.  

Day 15
  • You have another dose of the same 4 drugs as above

You have another 2 week break. This completes one cycle of treatment.


You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines, food and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you're having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with these drugs. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.


Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drugs may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.


Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and the shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine (as an injection)
  • be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections

Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as oral polio or the typhoid vaccine.

This also includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s poo for up to 2 weeks and could make you ill. So avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.

You should also avoid close contact with children who have had the flu vaccine nasal spray if your immune system is severely weakened. 

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Last reviewed: 
14 Jun 2017
  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines​

    Eichenauer and others 

    Annals of Oncology, 2014

  • Electronic Medicines Compendium 
    Accessed June 2017

  • Handbook of Cancer Chemotherapy (8th edition)

    Roland K Keel

    Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2012

  • Immunisation against infectious disease: Chapter 6: General contraindications to vaccination

    Public Health England

    First published: March 2013 and regularly updated on the Gov.UK website

  • Randomized Comparison of ABVD and MOPP/ABV Hybrid for the Treatment of Advanced Hodgkin's Disease: Report of an Intergroup trial

    D. Duggan and others

    Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2003. Vol 21, issue 4. 

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