Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. Chemotherapy primarily affects cancer cells, but some healthy cells can also be damaged. The treatment plan and doses will be adjusted to provide the best effect against cancer with minimal side effects. Chemotherapy may be used on its own, but is more often used in combination with radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy may also be used in preparation for a bone marrow transplant, which may done for advanced or relapsed cases of Hodgkin lymphoma.
There are a variety of chemotherapy drugs, but Hodgkin lymphoma is usually treated with specific regimens. The choice and combination of drugs is determined by the stage and type of Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as factors like your age and overall health. Examples of common chemotherapy drugs to treat Hodgkin lymphoma include:
Chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma is usually given through an IV, but some forms can be given by mouth. It is delivered in cycles over a set period of time. A medical oncologist will determine how many cycles of chemotherapy are needed and what combination of drugs will work best.
Though the drugs are targeted to cancer cells, they can affect healthy cells as well. The death of cancer cells and impact on healthy cells can cause a range of side effects. A medical oncologist will work to find the best drug combination and dosage to have the most impact on the cancer cells with the least minimal side effects on healthy tissue. Side effects or complications from chemotherapy may include:
A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects including medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. In some cases, the chemotherapy regimen may be adjusted to reduce severe side effects. The earlier the side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort. Long-term side effects can include damage to the heart, peripheral nerves, kidneys, lungs, and some cognitive dysfunction.
Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Updated April 12, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Chemotherapy and drug therapy. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/hodgkin-lymphoma/treatment/chemotherapy-and-drug-therapy. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkin-lymphoma/treating/chemotherapy.html. Updated March 28, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/hodgkin-lymphoma. Updated October 2012. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114957/Hodgkin-lymphoma-HL. Updated November 22, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 3/7/2016