Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and they are the treatments that most patients begin with.
Depending on your situation, your doctor may suggest other treatments, including options you can access by taking part in a clinical study conducted at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and its parent organizations, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine.
Lymphoma and its treatment in children can be different than the disease and treatment in adults. If you are concerned about a child who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, please visit our section on childhood Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Your doctor will base your treatment on many factors, including:
- The stage of your disease
- The size of your lymph nodes
- Whether you have symptoms and what they are
- Your age
- Your overall health
The treatment schedule varies from patient to patient. After your initial treatment, your doctor will monitor your condition to see whether your lymphoma is in remission or you need additional treatment.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most often treated with anti-cancer drugs, called chemotherapy. These medicines are usually given intravenously (by IV), though some forms may be taken by mouth. They are distributed throughout the body through the bloodstream. Chemotherapy can help kill cancer cells that are in the lymph system as well as those that may have spread to other areas.
Most types of chemotherapy are given in cycles, which means you receive an infusion of your chemotherapy drugs by IV on one day, and then you wait several days to a few weeks before receiving your next dose. This gives the drugs time to have an effect and also gives your body some time to recover before getting more.
The schedule depends mainly on the drugs you need and the stage of your cancer. A common schedule is to get chemotherapy every three to four weeks.
Our patients receive their chemotherapy infusions at the SCCA clinic.
For Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a common chemotherapy regimen is called ABVD. This regimen includes the drugs doxorubicin (Adriamycin), bleomycin (Blenoxane), vinblastine and dacarbazine (DTIC-Dome). Many of our patients receive this combination.
We use several other combinations, too. Your doctor will recommend the combination most likely to work for your cancer.
Our researchers are studying new combinations of chemotherapy drugs in order to find the most effective combinations for different types of the disease. Many of our patients receive these combinations by taking part in clinical studies.
Dr. Oliver Press, chair of lymphoma research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and professor of medical oncology at University of Washington School of Medicine, cares for patients at SCCA and is the principal investigator for a national study evaluating response-adapted therapy in Hodgkin’s lymphoma using early PET (positron emission tomography) scanning to determine which therapy to use. Dr. Press has been selected as co-chairman of the National Cancer Institute’s Lymphoma Steering Committee and is a member of the executive committee of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
Depending on the type of lymphoma and whether or where it has spread, your doctor may use radiation therapy alone or along with chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors. People with lymphoma receive external radiation therapy, in which a machine outside the body delivers a dose of radiation that travels through the outer structures, such as the skin and the skeletal muscles, into deeper areas of the body.
For Hodgkin’s lymphoma, these are the most common areas where doctors use radiation: lymph nodes in the mantle area (neck, chest and armpits), spleen or groin.
We will tailor your radiation regimen to your specific situation. Typically patients with lymphoma who need radiation get one treatment each day, five days a week, for several weeks.
Bone Marrow Transplant
People whose disease is not cured with initial treatment and who get recurrent lymphoma may have a bone marrow transplant in combination with chemotherapy, biologic therapies (used to restore or improve the immune system’s ability to fight disease) or other new treatments being studied.
The Hutchinson Center pioneered the use of bone marrow transplants as a treatment for blood diseases more than 40 years ago. Since then thousands of patients with lymphoma have come from around the world to receive bone marrow transplants at SCCA. Bone marrow transplants have transformed lymphoma and related cancers, once thought incurable, into highly treatable diseases.
Along with treating our patients’ lymphoma, we provide care beginning at the time of diagnosis to decrease their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and prevent or treat health problems related to their disease or its treatment.
Side effects are an important concern for many people receiving cancer treatment. Besides killing cancer cells, treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can damage healthy tissue and cause side effects like fatigue, hair loss, digestive problems, mouth sores, skin irritation and low levels of healthy blood cells.
Your doctor will talk with you about the specific side effects you might develop and what to watch for. We will help you take the best possible care of yourself to prevent, minimize or relieve side effects so you can focus your energy on your recovery.