Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most curable forms of cancer. Most people respond well to treatment and the overall 5-year survival rate is 85%, with most of those individuals having been cured of the disease.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated with chemotherapy alone or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The specific treatment plan for any individual depends on factors such as the patient’s age, their general health status and suitability for chemotherapy, and the stage and subtype of the cancer.
The treatment approach to Hodgkin’s lymphoma is outlined below:
Chemotherapy – Although chemotherapy agents kill fast growing cancer cells, they also kill healthy fast growing cells in parts of the body such as the blood, skin and stomach. This can lead to symptoms such as anemia, susceptibility to infection and diarrhea and sickness and patients may feel weak, sick and fatigued as well as experiencing hair loss.
If a patient’s prognosis is positive, chemotherapy is usually administered intravenously, but patients who are not expected to survive only receive the chemotherapy in tablet form, as a means of relieving symptoms.
Chemotherapy is usually given over a period of months, in cycles of treatment that are broken up by rest periods in-between.
Some examples of chemotherapy regimens are described below:
- ABVD, which refers to the use of adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine.
- Stanford V, which uses doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine/vincristine, mechlorethamine, etoposide, and prednisone.
- BEACOPP, which refers to the use of bleomycin, etoposide, adriamycin, cyclophosphamide, oncovin, procarbazine and prednisone.
Radiatiotherapy is used to treat early-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is still localized to a particular body part. The therapy is administered in short daily sessions between Monday and Friday over the course of several weeks.
Steroids such as prednisolone are sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy drugs for advanced cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma or in cases where the patient has not responded to initial treatment.
Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody that is used in combination with chemotherapy to treat a particular subtype of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, referred to as the lymphocyte-predominat subtype. The medication is administered intravenously over the course of a few hours.