Treating Hodgkin lymphoma

The main treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Some people only need one of these treatments. Others have both.

About treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

The main treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The treatment you have will depend on:

We understand that having treatment can be a difficult time for people. We're here to support you. If you want to talk, you can: 

Treating classical Hodgkin lymphoma

If you have early-stage classical Hodgkin lymphoma, you will usually be treated with chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. If the lymphoma is more advanced, chemotherapy is usually the main treatment but you may also have radiotherapy.

Most people will not need any further treatment to get rid of the lymphoma. However, sometimes lymphoma comes back or there may still be signs of it after treatment (see below). You might need more treatment if this happens.

Treating nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL)

If you have nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL), your doctor may suggest that you delay having treatment. Instead you will have regular tests and appointments to monitor the lymphoma. This is called watch and wait.

If you start treatment, you may have radiotherapy or chemotherapy to treat NLPHL. Some people have both treatments. Other people will have a targeted therapy such as rituximab. This is a common treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

NLPHL may come back, sometimes after a long period of time, and can be treated again with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Rarely, NLPHL can change into a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. If this happens, you will have treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma instead. We have more information about treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Treating Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back

For most people, treatment for lymphoma is very effective and gets rid of all signs of the disease. This is called complete remission. However, in some people:

  • there are still signs of lymphoma after treatment (called partial remission)
  • lymphoma comes back again (called relapse or recurrence).

Hodgkin lymphoma can often be treated again. Some people will have a complete remission with more treatment. Other people will have treatments that control the lymphoma and treat any symptoms.

If you need more treatment, your lymphoma doctor will explain what to expect. The type of treatment you have may depend on the treatments you had before. It may also depend on the stage and type of lymphoma, your age and your general health.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can often be used again. Some people have a treatment called autologous stem cell transplant (your own cells).

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist; and Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.