Treating Hodgkin Lymphoma

If you (or your child) has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), the cancer care team will discuss treatment options with you. It’s important to think carefully about your choices. You will want to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible risks and side effects.

Treatment for HL is based largely on the stage (extent) of the disease. But other factors, including a person’s age and general health, and the type and location of the lymphoma, might also affect treatment options.

For almost all people with HL, cure is the main goal. But treatment can have side effects, some that don’t show up for many years. Because of this, doctors try to choose a treatment plan with the lowest risk of possible side effects.

Which treatments are used for Hodgkin lymphoma?

Depending on the type and stage of the lymphoma and other factors, treatment options for people with HL can include:

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the main treatments for HL. Depending on the case, one or both of these treatments might be used.

Certain patients might be treated with immunotherapy or with a stem cell transplant, especially if other treatments haven’t worked. Except for biopsy and staging, surgery is rarely used to treat HL.

To learn about the most common approaches to treating these cancers and about treatment in special circumstances, see:

What types of doctors treat Hodgkin lymphoma?

Based on your treatment options, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These may include:

  • A hematologist: a doctor who treats disorders of the blood, including lymphomas.
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines.
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.

Many other specialists might be part of your treatment team, too, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

Making Treatment Decisions

It's important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. In choosing a treatment plan, consider your health and your preferences, as well as the type and stage of the Hodgkin lymphoma.

It’s also very important to ask questions if you’re not sure about something. You can find some good questions in Questions To Ask About Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Getting a second opinion

If time allows, you may also want to get a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel more certain about the treatment plan you choose. If you aren’t sure where to go for a second opinion, ask your doctor for help.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to learn more about promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they're not right for everyone.

If you'd like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital takes part in clinical trials. See Clinical Trials to learn more.

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

  • Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care.
  • Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment.

Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.

Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what's known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision.  See Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Help getting through cancer treatment

Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.

The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor. Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.