Cancer Home > Hodgkin's Chemotherapy

As a treatment for people with Hodgkin's, chemotherapy involves the use of certain drugs that enter the bloodstream and either kill the cancer cells or stop them from growing. People receiving chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease may take it by mouth (orally) or have it injected into a vein (IV). When used to treat Hodgkin's, chemotherapy may cause side effects such as increased risk of infection, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and mouth and lip sores.

An Overview of Hodgkin's Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one option for Hodgkin's disease treatment. With chemotherapy, drugs are used to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. For Hodgkin's disease (also known as Hodgkin's lymphoma), patients take these medicines by mouth or have them injected into a vein or muscle. The drugs can then enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (this is called systemic chemotherapy).
For Hodgkin's chemotherapy, the specific medicine (or combination of medicines) and dosage doctors recommend will be based on a number of factors, including the type and stage of Hodgkin's disease.

Side Effects of Hodgkin's Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy used to treat Hodgkin's disease depend mainly on the specific drugs and the dose. The drugs affect cancer cells and other cells that divide rapidly, including:
  • Blood cells: When chemotherapy drugs affect your healthy blood cells, you are more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and feel very weak and tired.
  • Cells in hair roots: Chemotherapy can cause you to lose your hair. Your hair will grow back, but sometimes the new hair is somewhat different in color and texture.
  • Cells that line the mouth, stomach, and other parts of the digestive tract: Chemotherapy can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, trouble swallowing, or mouth and lip sores.
Most side effects of Hodgkin's chemotherapy go away gradually during the recovery periods between treatments or after treatment is over. Sometimes, however, chemotherapy results in a permanent loss of fertility.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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