We understand how difficult a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma can be, both for your child and for your whole family. That's why our team of professionals is focused on family-centered care and committed to supporting all of your family's physical and psychosocial needs. We'll work with you to create a care plan that's best for your child.
Treatment components may include the following (alone or in combination):
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. There are several ways it can be given, such as:
- as a pill to swallow
- as an injection into the muscle or fat tissue
- intravenously (directly to the bloodstream, also called IV)
How is chemotherapy used?
This depends on many factors. Some things to keep in mind:
- A number of combinations of chemotherapy drugs are currently being used to shrink the cancer.
- Depending on the type of cancer, chemotherapy drugs may be given in a specific order.
- Chemotherapy may be used alone for some types of Hodgkin, or in conjunction with other therapy such as radiation.
What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the use of strong drugs designed to kill cancer cells. Since chemotherapy travels throughout the blood stream, the side effects are systemic (affecting a child's whole body). Chemotherapy side effects commonly include nausea and vomiting, but also include sores in the mouth or gastrointestinal track. Another side effect is myelosuppression, which is when there are a low number of healthy blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Myelosuppression increases a child's risk for infection, anemia and low platelet levels which can lead to minor bleeding, such as nose bleeds or bleeding from brushing teeth.Being able to anticipate these side effects can help your child, family and your child's health care team prepare for and sometimes prevent these side effects from occurring.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays (radiation), such as x-rays, from a specialized machine to damage or kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. For children with classical Hodgkin lymphoma, radiation often used after chemotherapy, there are several other factors that may determine if radiation is safe and effective for an individual child.
What are the side effects of radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells, but it also may damage healthy cells. Since radiation uses beams focused on a specific area, the side effects are isolated to that area being treated. For example, if your child's arm required radiation, the skin on his arm may feel itchy and irritated. Other side effects may include a sore throat, hair loss, nausea and vomiting.
Long-term side effects mayoccur years after treatment. Possible late effects include heart disease, thyroid problems, lung problems other cancers and very rarely, infertility. Infertility is especially rare side effect of radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma because very rarely are reproductive organs affected by Hodgkin lymphoma.
Although surgery may be used to biopsy Hodgkin lymphoma, it is not used to treat classical Hodgkin lymphoma. It may be used in the treatment of nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma that is involves only one lymph node.
Stem cell transplant
Stem cell transplant is often used when the lymphoma progresses despite the initial treatment or when the cancer returns (relapses) after the initial treatment is complete. The donor is usually the patient himself (autologous), so there is no risk for a mismatch of tissue type
Medications and other treatments may be given if your child experiences symptoms such as pain, fever, infection and nausea and/or vomiting.
Continuous follow-up care
Your child's health is closely monitored to determine response to treatment, detect recurrent disease and manage late effects of treatment.
It's important for your child to visit a survivorship clinic every year to:
- manage disease complications
- screen for recurrence of cancer and/or secondary cancers
- manage late effects of treatment
A typical follow-up visit may include some or all of the following:
- physical exam
- laboratory testing
- imaging scans
Through the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, childhood cancer survivors receive a comprehensive follow-up evaluation from their cancer care team.
What is my child's quality of life like during treatment?
Treatment is usually chemotherapy which can be exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally. That being said, a lot of children are resilient, and most patients being treated for Hodgkin lymphoma continue going to school and participating in social activities. Athletics may be difficult until your child regains his or her full strength. The quality of life during radiation treatment is the same as with chemotherapy.
What is the long-term outlook for a child with Hodgkin lymphoma?
As far as life expectancy, more than 90 percent of children treated for Hodgkin lymphoma at Dana-Farber/Children's Cancer Care are cured and are expected to live a full life. Once treatment is finished, the majority of children can resume a normal life, and are able to fully participate in sports, social activities and school.
Coping and support
Treatment and recovery for Hodgkin lymphoma may be especially challenging for your whole family, as well as for your child. Learn more about the patient and family resources available to your whole family at the Dana-Farber/Children's Cancer Center.