Treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma


Treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is very effective, and most people with the condition eventually recover. While there are many treatment options for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the primary treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is chemotherapy. However, other treatment options such as radiotherapy and steroid medicine are also available.


The primary treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy and sometimes chemotherapy can also be combined with steroid medications. Surgery is not a choice in Hodgkin’s lymphoma, except for a biopsy, used to diagnose the condition. In general, treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is very effective, and most people with the condition eventually recover.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is also administered in various ways depending on the cancer type.

If doctors think the cancer is curable, chemotherapy is usually injected into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy). If treatment is not possible, the patient needs to take chemotherapy drugs to relieve the symptoms.

It is normally administered on an outpatient basis for a couple of months, so the patient does not need to stay in the hospital overnight. However, in some cases, treatment symptoms or side effects can be particularly distressing with longer hospital stays.

There can be multiple side effects of chemotherapy, the most serious of which is possible bone marrow damage. It can interfere with the formation of healthy blood cells and cause problems such as:

  • breathlessness
  • fatigue
  • bleeding and bruising more easily
  • increased vulnerability to infection

If these problems occur, treatment may need to be postponed to produce healthy blood cells, additionally, growth factor drugs can also stimulate the formation of blood cells.

Other possible side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • diarrhoea
  • mouth ulcers
  • hair loss
  • skin rashes
  • infertility, which may be permanent or temporary

Most side effects of chemotherapy go away when treatment is over. Some treatments can help subside these side effects, so you should inform the doctors and the healthcare team if any side effects are particularly bothering you.

If routine chemotherapy fails or Hodgkin’s lymphoma recurs after treatment, you doctor may also give you higher doses of chemotherapy.

However, a higher dosage of chemotherapy destroys the bone marrow, causing various problems described above. A bone marrow transplant or stem cell therapy may also be a treatment option to replace the damaged bone marrow.


Radiation therapy helps to treat early-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma, where the cancer is in only one part of the body.

Radiation therapy is painless, but it can have some serious side effects, these can vary and are directly related to the part of the affected body. For example, throat treatment can cause a sore throat, and head treatments can lead to hair loss.

Some other side effects include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • dry mouth

Although most side effects are short-term, there is a risk of long-term problems, such as infertility and persistent skin darkening in the treated area.

Steroid medicine

Steroid drugs help in advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a more intensive treatment or additionally in combination with chemotherapy if initial treatment fails.

Moreover, steroids are usually given intravenously along with chemotherapy.

Some of the side effects of steroid medicine also include:

  • indigestion
  • increased appetite, leading to weight gain
  • feeling agitated
  • problems sleeping

Side effects of steroid medications usually improve after treatment is over.


If a person is diagnosed with a rare type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma called lymphocyte-dominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that person may also be given chemotherapy with a drug called rituximab.

Rituximab is a type of biologic therapy called a monoclonal antibody, it attaches to the surface of cancer cells and stimulates the immune system to attack and also kills the cancer cells.

Additionally, it is administered through a drip directly into a vein over several hours.

Common side effects of rituximab are as follows:

  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • muscle pain
  • nausea

Doctor can also give additional medicines to prevent or reduce side effects. Any side effects should improve over time once the body gets familiar with this medicine.

Brentuximab vedotin

Brentuximab vedotin is a new drug for the treatment of certain types of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it is helpful for people with CD30 positive Hodgkin’s lymphoma, such as:

If the patient already had a stem cell transplant using their own cells or are additionally unable to receive chemotherapy.

If a stem cell transplant cannot be done using own cells, but the patient has already received two or more other treatments.

It is similar to rituximab, but the treatment session lasts approximately 30 minutes.

Side effects of brentuximab vedotin may also include​1–3​:

  • shortness of breath
  • skin rash
  • back pain
  • cough
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • vomiting
  • nausea


  1. 1.
  2. 2.
    Hodgkin lymphoma-Treatment. Cancer Research UK. Published 2020. Accessed March 2022.
  3. 3.
    TREATMENT. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Published 2022. Accessed March 2022.