Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)

Main treatments

The main treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are:

  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Steroids
  • High dose treatment with stem cell support

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high energy X-rays to kill the cancer cells in your lymph nodes. It is usually used to treat early stage lymphoma. It can be given before, together or after you have a course of chemotherapy. Please see our booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more about radiotherapy.

Learn more about radiotherapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. Some common chemotherapy drugs used in Hodgkin lymphoma are:

Please see our booklet Understanding Chemotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more about chemotherapy, or learn more about chemotherapy here.

Steroids

Steroids are drugs that are given with chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. Steroids work very well with chemotherapy. Steroids can also be given to help you with some of the side-effects that you might experience - e.g., feeling sick. Steroids are usually given as tablets. When you take steroids, you might experience some side-effects including:

  • Increased appetite
  • Stomach upsets
  • Feeling more energetic
  • Finding it hard to get to sleep

High-dose treatment with stem cell support

Some people might need treatment with high-dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy. You might be given this treatment if:

  • Following treatment, your Hodgkin lymphoma has not fully gone away.
  • Your lymphoma has come back since your treatment.

High-dose treatment will kill your bone marrow. Bone marrow makes the blood cells that are essential for your health. These cells include red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. There are ways to replace these cells. The cells can be replaced by stem cell support or transplant. These stem cells can be taken from the bone marrow or peripheral blood. The cells can be taken from you, which is called autologous, or from someone else, which is called allogeneic.

For more information please see our booklets and factsheets:

Advanced treatment

Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma will be cured. If your cancer does come back and your doctor feels that it cannot be cured, he/she might be able to give you radiotherapy or chemotherapy to shrink your cancer and make you feel well for a time.

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment and the dose you get, the duration of your treatment and your own general health. Some treatments might cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, loss of appetite and hair loss. A lot of treatments cause tiredness. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about any possible side-effects before your treatment begins.

For more about coping with side-effects, see the booklets Understanding ChemotherapyUnderstanding RadiotherapyCoping with FatigueDiet and Cancer and Understanding Cancer and Complementary Therapies, all available to download under the "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page. 

Learn more about side effects

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials might be taking place in the hospital you are attending. If you would like to take part in a clinical trial, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials