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Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

The type of treatment you receive for Hodgkin lymphoma depends on a number of things, including:

  • The stage or extent of lymphoma
  • The exact type of Hodgkin lymphoma you have
  • How old you are
  • Your overall health.

Thanks to advances in research and improved treatment options, most people treated for Hodgkin lymphoma are able to be cured or remain cancer-free and well for a long period of time.

Early stage (1 and 2)

Treatment is usually a form of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of both.

Advanced-stage disease (stages 3 and 4)

This type of Hodgkin lymphoma is often treated with a longer course of chemotherapy which, in most patients, will continue for six months or even longer. Occasionally radiotherapy is also used in this stage.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells while doing the least possible damage to healthy cells. Chemotherapy is given through a liquid drip into a vein (intravenously), an injection into a muscle or as tablets. You will probably have chemotherapy as a course of several sessions (cycles) over approximately 6 months. Your cancer specialist will explain your treatment schedule.

Side effects of chemotherapy

People react to chemotherapy differently – some people have few side effects, while others have many. The side effects depend on the drugs used and the dose. Your cancer specialist or nurse will discuss the likely side effects with you, including how they can be prevented or controlled with medicine.

Common side effects include fatigue; changes in appetite, taste and smell; constipation or diarrhoea; mouth sores and ulcers; and hair loss.

Keep a record of the doses and names of your chemotherapy drugs handy. This will save time if you become ill and need to visit the emergency department.

During chemotherapy, you will have a higher risk of getting an infection or bleeding. If you have a temperature over 38°C, contact your doctor or go to the emergency department. Tell your doctor if you feel more tired than usual, or if you bruise or bleed easily.

Download our booklet ‘Understanding Chemotherapy’

Radiation therapy uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread. The radiation is usually in the form of focused x-ray beams. It can also be in other forms such as electron beams, proton beams, or gamma rays from radioactive sources. Radiation therapy is a localised treatment, which means it generally affects only the area being treated. Treatment is carefully planned to do as little harm as possible to the normal body tissue near the cancer.

The side effects of radiation therapy vary. Most are temporary and disappear a few weeks or months after treatment. 

Common side effects include fatigue; skin reaction (redness, dry or itchy) in the treatment area; mouth problems and local hair loss. Radiation therapy can cause the skin or internal tissue to become less stretchy and harden (fibrosis).

Download our booklet ‘Understanding Radiation Therapy’

This information is reviewed by

This information was written and last reviewed in September 2020 by Cancer Council SA's experienced information team with support from national Cancer Council publications.