Chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. There are guidelines (protocols) that set out how much and how often to have particular chemotherapy drugs, depending on the stage of the lymphoma.
You can find information about chemotherapy protocols at eviq.org.au, although your specialist may need to tailor the plan to your individual situation. Your treatment team will give you information about your schedule.
Learn more about:
- Having chemotherapy
- Side effects of chemotherapy
- Common side effects of chemotherapy
- Taking care with infections
- Video: What is chemotherapy?
Some chemotherapy drugs are taken as tablets, but most are given by drip into a vein (intravenous infusion). Intravenous infusions may be given in different ways, depending on how often you need chemotherapy, how long it takes to give each dose, and how long the device needs to stay in place.
Some people have a small plastic tube called a cannula inserted into an arm or hand at each visit. Others have a central venous access device (CVAD), a tube that remains in a vein throughout the course of treatment. Your doctor or nurse will let you know if you need a cannula or CVAD to have your treatment.
There are different types of CVADs, including:
- central lines – inserted into the chest or neck
- Hickman lines – inserted into the chest
- PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line – inserted into the arm
- port-a-caths (ports) – a small device inserted under the skin of the chest or arm.
In most cases, you will have chemotherapy at the hospital or treatment centre as an outpatient and won’t need to stay overnight.
For Hodgkin lymphoma, you will have several chemotherapy drugs, usually given in cycles spread over 3–6 months. Each cycle takes 2–4 weeks and includes rest days. Sometimes after the first 2 cycles, you may have a PET–CT scan to check how the Hodgkin lymphoma has responded. This is known as restaging, and it helps your team work out whether to adjust the chemotherapy you are given.
You will also have regular blood tests throughout treatment. If your white blood cell count is low (called neutropenia or lymphopenia), you may be given injections of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). G-CSF is a substance that helps to increase your white cell count and protect you from infection. Sometimes, you may need to delay your chemotherapy until your white cell count improves.
For more on this, see our general section on Chemotherapy.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about chemotherapy.
Prof Mark Hertzberg AM, Head, Department of Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital; Dr Puja Bhattacharyya, Haematology Staff Specialist, Western Sydney Local Health District – Blacktown Hospital; A/Prof Susan Carroll, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital and University of Sydney; Gerry Flanagan, Consumer; Alisha Ganesh, Haematology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Repatriation General Hospital; Kelly King, Cancer Council Liaison, Central Coast Cancer Centre; Ilana Krug, Social Worker – Haematology and Oncology, Gosford Hospital; Amy McGee, Consumer.
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