Types of Treatment for Hodgkin's Disease

Hodgkin's disease treatments are either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in a certain area of your body. Radiation therapy is a local treatment. Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells throughout your entire body. Chemotherapy and stem cell transplant are systemic treatments.

Each type of treatment for Hodgkin's disease has a different goal. Here is a list of main treatments and their goals. You may have only one treatment or a combination of treatments.

  • Chemotherapy. This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy, used alone or with radiation, is the most common treatment for Hodgkin's disease. Most people take a combination of drugs through intravenous infusions and pills.

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells using X-rays. This treatment used to be used alone in early-stage Hodgkin's disease, when the disease had not spread far from the original tumor. Now, it is most often used with chemotherapy.

  • Stem cell transplant. The goal of a stem cell transplant is to kill as many of the lymphoma cells as possible by treating the body with very high doses of chemotherapy and, sometimes, radiation. Normally, your body would not be able to handle such high doses. However, after a person is treated with these high doses, they are then "rescued" with healthy, new stem cells. The new cells can come from a donor, called an allogeneic transplant. Or you can have stem cells that circulate in your own blood collected and preserved prior to the high-dose treatments, which is called an autologous transplant. You get back the stem cells in a process like a blood transfusion a few days after the chemotherapy.

Doctors are always finding new ways to treat Hodgkin's disease. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, you should ask your doctor about clinical trials you should consider.

Some people use complementary therapies. That means they get standard cancer treatment, such as surgery or chemotherapy, along with other supportive ones, such as yoga or changes to their diet. You may want to talk about this option with your doctor.

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