Treating Hodgkin Lymphoma in Pregnancy

If a woman is pregnant and diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, treatment options depend on several factors. The woman and her doctors must take into account the extent of the lymphoma, how quickly it is growing, how far along the pregnancy is, and the woman’s own personal preferences.

If the Hodgkin lymphoma requires treatment during the pregnancy, it is usually delayed until after the first trimester, if possible, because the risks to the baby are lower after this. Treatment usually consists of chemotherapy using either one or a few drugs, based on the circumstances.

If the lymphoma is diagnosed during the second half of the pregnancy and is not causing problems, a woman can often wait until the baby is born (sometimes by inducing labor a few weeks early) before starting treatment. This is the approach that is safest for the baby.

Radiation therapy is not often given during pregnancy because of concerns about the possible long-term effects on the unborn baby. But a few studies suggest that as long as very careful precautions are taken to aim the radiation precisely, limit the doses, and shield the baby, pregnant women with Hodgkin lymphoma in lymph nodes in the neck, underarm area, or inside the chest can have this treatment with little or no apparent risk to the baby. If radiation is given, it should be delayed until at least the second trimester, if possible.

The need to avoid radiation also limits which imaging tests can be used to help determine the stage (extent) of the lymphoma or to see if treatment is working. CT scans, PET scans, and x-rays all use radiation, so they are avoided if at all possible. MRI scans and ultrasound can often be used instead.

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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query (PDQ). Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. 2016. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq on April 20, 2016.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Hodgkin Lymphoma. Version 2.2016. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/hodgkins.pdf on April 20, 2016.

Younes A, Carbone A, Johnson P, Dabaja B, Ansell S, Kuruvilla J. Chapter 102: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Last Medical Review: February 10, 2017 Last Revised: March 29, 2017

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