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Chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma


Chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma

Chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma often consists of giving several drugs together in a set regimen. Because each medication destroys tumor cells in a different way, a combination of drugs may make the cells more vulnerable to treatment. The following are some standard chemotherapy regimens for Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • ABVD: doxorubicin (adriamycin), bleomycin, vinblastine, dacarbazine
  • Stanford V: mechlorethamine, doxorubicin, vinblastine, vincristine, bleomycin, etoposide, prednisone

Depending on the regimen, Hodgkin lymphoma chemotherapy treatments may be administered in pill form, as an injection or intravenously. You may receive chemo alone, or in combination with radiation therapy and/or stem cell transplantation.

Hodgkin lymphoma chemotherapy-related side effects

While chemotherapy destroys rapidly-dividing cancer cells, it can also affect normal cells, such as those in the hair, mouth, GI tract and bone marrow.

Sometimes, chemotherapy temporarily lowers your blood counts, causing:

  • Increased risk of infection (from neutropenia, or low white blood cell count)
  • Fatigue (from anemia, or low red blood cell count)
  • Easy bruising and bleeding (from thrombocytopenia, or low platelet count).

Other side effects of chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma may include:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Fertility problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiotoxicity (heart damage)

Helping you manage side effects of chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma

Throughout your Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, your care team will use a combination of approaches to prevent or manage chemotherapy-related side effects.

Your doctor may prescribe certain drugs before you begin treatment to combat nausea or prevent infection. We’ll also do routine blood tests to monitor your blood cell counts. If your counts are low, we may use certain drugs or provide a transfusion to restore your counts to a normal level.

Additionally, therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management, and oncology rehabilitation, can all help to reduce chemotherapy-related side effects and keep you strong so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy most.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs designed to slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body. It may be used:

  • As a primary treatment to destroy cancer cells
  • Before another treatment to shrink a tumor
  • After another treatment to destroy any remaining cancer cells
  • To relieve symptoms of advanced cancer

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our medical oncologists are experienced in delivering targeted, individualized chemotherapy options while also proactively managing side effects.

Chemotherapy delivery methods

Some chemotherapy delivery methods include:

  • Orally (by mouth as a pill or liquid)
  • Intravenously (by infusion into a vein)  
  • Topically (as a cream on the skin)
  • Injection
  • Direct placement (via a lumbar puncture or device placed under the scalp)

When chemotherapy drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cells throughout the body, it is called systemic chemotherapy. When chemotherapy drugs are directed to a specific area of the body, it is called regional chemotherapy.

Experienced care team

For most of our patients, a medical oncologist serves as their primary doctor. Our medical oncologists specialize in diagnosing cancer and delivering chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and/or hormone therapy. They will work closely with you and the rest of your care team to discuss chemotherapy options based on your individual needs.

Individualized treatment approach

When you arrive at the hospital, your medical oncologist will review your medical history and perform a full diagnostic evaluation, then present you with a treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis.

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for many of our patients. Our physicians use leading treatment protocols and practice evidence-based medicine. In some cases, we may use innovative delivery methods to treat certain types of cancer.

We strive to find the right chemotherapy drug, or combination of drugs, for each person. We may use tests, such as tumor molecular profiling, to identify an appropriate drug combination for your disease and help you avoid unnecessary toxicity.

If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, your medical oncologist will coordinate your dosage and schedule. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other treatment modalities like targeted therapies, surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Throughout your treatment, your medical oncologist will monitor the effectiveness of your chemotherapy regimen and modify your treatment plan accordingly.

Managing chemotherapy side effects

While chemotherapy targets cancer cells, it can also damage healthy cells and cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and mouth sores. Your dedicated care team will provide a variety of supportive care services to help you prevent or manage side effects throughout your chemotherapy treatment.