Hodgkin lymphoma

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Treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma

If you have Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for HL, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the type of HL
  • the stage
  • the areas of the body affected by HL
  • if you have B symptoms (specific symptoms that affect the whole body, like fever)
  • if you have any unfavourable (adverse) risk factors, such as bulky (large) tumours
  • your age
  • your overall health
  • your risk of short-term or late side effects

The following is general information about treatments offered for HL. HL is generally treated using chemotherapy, with or without radiation therapy. Find out more about treatments for classical HL and treatments for nodular lymphocyte-predominant HL. Changes to the treatment plan may be made based on your response to treatment.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the main treatment for HL. Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancer cells.

Find out more about chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used after chemotherapy to treat HL. Occasionally it is given alone as the main treatment for early HL when the lymphoma cells are only in the area of the body where the cancer started (called localized disease).

Find out more about radiation therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant may be used to treat HL that is refractory (doesn’t respond to treatment) or relapses (comes back after treatment).

A stem cell transplant uses high-dose chemotherapy to kill all of the cells in the bone marrow. Healthy stem cells are given to replace the ones in the bone marrow that were destroyed.

Find out more about stem cell transplant for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy drugs may be used along with standard chemotherapy to treat some types of HL or HL that relapses or no longer responds to other treatments. Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on cancer cells or inside them to stop the growth and spread of cancer and limit harm to normal cells.

Find out more about targeted therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a type of targeted therapy that helps to strengthen or restore the immune system’s ability to find and destroy cancer cells. It may be used along with standard chemotherapy to treat HL that relapses or no longer responds to other treatment.

Find out more about immunotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Follow-up care

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. You will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 5 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow your healthcare team to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people with HL in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Questions to ask about treatment

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about treatment.