Treatment Cancer

Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma depends on the stage of the disease, the size of the enlarged lymph nodes, the symptoms that are present, the age and general health of the patient, and other factors.

Patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma undergo an extensive evaluation that may include:

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma, although bone marrow transplantation, peripheral stem cell transplantation and biological therapies are currently being studied in clinical trials.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the disease, treatment with radiation may be given alone or with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is local therapy, meaning it only affects cancer cells in the treated area.

Radiation treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma usually involves external radiation, coming from a machine that aims the rays at a specific area of the body. External radiation does not cause the body to become radioactive. Most often, treatment is given on an outpatient basis in a hospital or clinic.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma usually consists of a combination of several drugs. It may be given alone or followed by radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles: a treatment period followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period and recovery period, and so on. Although most anticancer drugs are given by injection into a blood vessel through an IV, some are given by mouth. Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy, meaning the drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.

Usually, chemotherapy is an outpatient procedure, which means it can be given at the hospital, the doctor's office or at home. However, depending on which drugs are given and the patient's general health, a short hospital stay may be needed.

The majority of patients receive chemotherapy every two weeks for approximately six months. Depending on the initial stage and how the tumor regresses with the treatment, more or less therapy may be required.

Stem Cell Transplants

At UCSF Medical Center, stem cell transplantation, also called bone marrow transplantation, is offered to many patients with recurrent Hodgkin's lymphoma. The type of stem cell transplant will depend on a number of factors including:

  • Age
  • Current symptoms
  • Response to prior treatments
  • The availability of a donor

Patients are encouraged to consult with a stem cell transplantation doctor to learn more about Hodgkin's lymphoma, the treatments for the disease and stem cell transplantation.

Stem cell, or bone marrow, transplantation refers to the administration of high-dose chemotherapy followed by the infusion of stem cells. If the stem cells are collected from the hip bone, the procedure is called a bone marrow transplant. If the stem cells are collected from the blood using a procedure called leukapheresis, the procedure is called a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.

Today, most transplantation procedures are performed using stem cells that have been collected from the peripheral blood. Peripheral stem cell transplantation is a method of giving high-dose chemotherapy and then replacing the blood-forming cells destroyed by chemotherapy with healthy stem cells.

Transplantation may be:

  • Autologous — Using the patient's own blood cells that were saved earlier
  • Allogeneic — Using blood cells donated by someone else
  • Syngeneic — Using blood cells donated by an identical twin

Biological Therapy

Biological therapies stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease. In addition, these therapies — also known as immunotherapy, biotherapy or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy — are used to lessen some of the side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Recommended reading

Autologous Transplant Guide

Having a blood and marrow transplant (BMT) is a difficult experience. Read this guide to help prepare you and your family and book an appointment today.

Hematology and BMT Resource Guide

This hematology and bone marrow transplant (BMT) resource guide provides information about diseases and treatments, employment, insurance and more.

Matched Unrelated Donor Transplantation

Bone marrow transplantation can be performed using one's own bone marrow or by using another person's bone marrow. Learn more here.

Self-Care for Caregivers

Caregiver fatigue can be brought on by the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one with a serious illness. Learn tips to combat caregiver fatigue here.

Communicating with Your Doctor

The relationship with a doctor is a very personal one, built on communication and trust. In choosing a doctor, the "chemistry" between the two of you must work.

Coping with Chemotherapy

Each person experiences side effects from chemotherapy differently, and different chemotherapy drugs cause different side effects. Learn more here.

Delegation to Help with Fatigue

Fatigue caused by cancer treatment can make it difficult to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Learn how task delegation can help with this fatigue.

Diet for Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Find practical tips and suggested foods to help with nausea here.

FAQ: Cancer Pathology Tissue Slides

Find frequently asked questions regarding cancer pathology tissue slides, such as how to obtain the slides and what to do with them once you do.

FAQ: Cancer Radiology Scans and Reports

Learn the difference between a radiology report and radiology films or scans as well as why your doctor may be requesting these scans and more.

Managing Your Treatment

Living with or caring for someone with cancer can be a full-time job. Here are some tips to reduce stress and help navigate the disease more effectively.

Nutrition and Coping with Cancer Symptoms

Side effects of cancer treatment may affect your eating pattern, requiring new ways to get the calories, protein and nutrients that you need. Learn more.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Your time with the doctor is limited, thus it's helpful to prepare for the visit in advance by prioritizing the questions that are important to you. Learn more.

Resources for End of Life

The UCSF Cancer Resource Center has a list of bereavement support groups, counselors, hospice and others dealing with end-of-life issues. Learn more.

Tips for Conserving Your Energy

Cancer and cancer therapy can be accompanied by feelings of extreme fatigue. To help you deal with this fatigue, follow these easy tips help conserve energy.

Using a Medical Calendar and Symptom Log

Take time at the end of each day or each week to reflect back on the symptoms you've had. You can use a calendar to track your symptoms. Learn more here.

Seeking care at UCSF Health

Expand Map