Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Which treatment options are appropriate for your Hodgkin's lymphoma depends on your type and stage of disease, your overall health, and your preferences. The goal of treatment is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible and bring the disease into remission.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill lymphoma cells. Chemotherapy drugs travel through your bloodstream and can reach nearly all areas of your body.

Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation therapy in people with early-stage classical type Hodgkin's lymphoma. Radiation therapy is typically done after chemotherapy. In advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, chemotherapy may be used alone or combined with radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form, through a vein in your arm or sometimes both methods of administration are used. Several combinations of chemotherapy drugs are used to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the specific drugs you're given. Common side effects include nausea and hair loss. Serious long-term complications can occur, such as heart damage, lung damage, fertility problems and other cancers, such as leukemia.

Radiation

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. For classical Hodgkin's lymphoma, radiation therapy can be used alone, but it is often used after chemotherapy. People with early-stage lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin's lymphoma typically undergo radiation therapy alone.

During radiation therapy, you lie on a table and a large machine moves around you, directing the energy beams to specific points on your body. Radiation can be aimed at affected lymph nodes and the nearby area of nodes where the disease might progress. The length of radiation treatment varies, depending on the stage of the disease.

Radiation therapy can cause skin redness and hair loss at the site where the radiation is aimed. Many people experience fatigue during radiation therapy. More-serious risks include heart disease, stroke, thyroid problems, infertility and other forms of cancer, such as breast or lung cancer.

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant is a treatment to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells that help you grow new bone marrow. A stem cell transplant may be an option if Hodgkin's lymphoma returns despite treatment.

During a stem cell transplant, your own blood stem cells are removed, frozen and stored for later use. Next you receive high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy to destroy cancerous cells in your body. Finally your stem cells are thawed and injected into your body through your veins. The stem cells help build healthy bone marrow.

Aug. 15, 2014

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