Home > Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI]
This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lymph system.
Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymph system, which is part of the body's immune system. The immune system protects the body from foreign substances, infection, and diseases. The lymph system is made up of the following:
Anatomy of the lymph system, showing the lymph vessels and lymph organs including lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow. Lymph (clear fluid) and lymphocytes travel through the lymph vessels and into the lymph nodes where the lymphocytes destroy harmful substances. The lymph enters the blood through a large vein near the heart.
Lymph tissue is also found in other parts of the body such as the stomach, thyroid gland, brain, and skin.
There are two general types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (See the PDQ summary on Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment for more information.)
Hodgkin lymphoma often occurs in adolescents 15 to 19 years of age. The treatment for children and adolescents is different than treatment for adults. (See the PDQ summary on Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment for more information.)
There are two types of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
The two types of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma are:
Classical Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into four subtypes, based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope:
Epstein-Barr virus infection increases the risk of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your child's doctor if you think your child may be at risk.
Risk factors for childhood Hodgkin lymphoma include the following:
Being exposed to common infections in early childhood may decrease the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma in children because of the effect it has on the immune system.
Signs of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.
These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by childhood Hodgkin lymphoma or by other conditions. Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:
Fever, weight loss, and night sweats are called B symptoms.
Tests that examine the lymph system are used to detect (find) and diagnose childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells, especially Reed-Sternberg cells. Reed-Sternberg cells are common in classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
The following test may be done on tissue that was removed:
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
The treatment options also depend on:
Most children and adolescents with newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured.
After childhood Hodgkin lymphoma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the lymph system or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the lymph system or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. Treatment is based on the stage and other factors that affect prognosis.
The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
Stages of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may include A, B, E, and S.
Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may be described as follows:
The following stages are used for childhood Hodgkin lymphoma:
Stage I childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer is found in one or more lymph nodes in one lymph node group. In stage IE (not shown), cancer is found outside the lymph nodes in one organ or area.
Stage I is divided into stage I and stage IE.
Stage II is divided into stage II and stage IIE.
Stage III childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer is found in one or more lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm (a). In stage IIIE, cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm and outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ or area (b). In stage IIIS, cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm (a) and in the spleen (c). In stage IIIS plus E, cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm, outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ or area (b), and in the spleen (c).
Stage III is divided into stage III, stage IIIE, stage IIIS, and stage IIIE,S.
Stage IV childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer is found outside the lymph nodes throughout one or more organs (a); or outside the lymph nodes in one organ and has spread to lymph nodes far away from that organ (b); or in the lung, liver, or bone marrow.
In stage IV, the cancer:
Untreated Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into risk groups.
Untreated childhood Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into risk groups based on the stage, size of the tumor, and whether the patient has B symptoms (fever, weight loss, or night sweats). The risk group is used to plan treatment.
Primary refractory Hodgkin lymphoma is lymphoma that continues to grow or spread during treatment.
Recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The lymphoma may come back in the lymph system or in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or bone marrow.
There are different types of treatment for children with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Different types of treatment are available for children with Hodgkin lymphoma. Some treatments are standard and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Children with Hodgkin lymphoma should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating childhood cancer.
Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatric health care providers who are experts in treating children with Hodgkin lymphoma and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:
The treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma in adolescents and young adults may be different than the treatment for children. Some adolescents and young adults are treated with an adult treatment regimen.
Children and adolescents may have treatment-related side effects that appear months or years after treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma.
Some cancer treatments cause side effects that continue or appear months or years after cancer treatment has ended. These are called late effects. Because late effects affect health and development, regular follow-up exams are important.
Late effects of cancer treatment may include:
For female survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma, there is an increased risk of breast cancer. This risk depends on the amount of radiation therapy they received to the breast during treatment and the chemotherapy regimen used. The risk of breast cancer is decreased if these female survivors also received radiation therapy to the ovaries.
It is suggested that female survivors who received radiation therapy to the breast have a mammogram once a year starting 8 years after treatment or at age 25 years, whichever is later. Female survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma who have breast cancer have an increased risk of dying from the disease compared to patients with no history of Hodgkin lymphoma who have breast cancer.
Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the possible late effects caused by some treatments. (See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information).
Five types of standard treatment are used:
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Combination chemotherapy is treatment using more than one anticancer drug.
The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the risk group. For example, children with low-risk Hodgkin lymphoma receive fewer cycles of treatment, fewer anticancer drugs, and lower doses of anticancer drugs than children with high-risk lymphoma.
See Drugs Approved for Hodgkin Lymphoma for more information.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:
Radiation therapy may be given, based on the child's risk group and chemotherapy regimen. External radiation therapy is used to treat childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. The radiation is given only to the lymph nodes or other areas with cancer. Internal radiation therapy is not used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy and proteasome inhibitor therapy are being used in the treatment of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.
In children, rituximab may be used to treat refractory or recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma. Brentuximab, nivolumab, pembrolizumab, and atezolizumab are monoclonal antibodies being studied to treat children.
Proteasome inhibitor therapy is a type of targeted therapy that blocks the action of proteasomes (proteins that remove other proteins the body no longer needs) in cancer cells and may prevent the growth of tumors. Bortezomib is a proteasome inhibitor used to treat refractory or recurrent childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
Surgery may be done to remove as much of the tumor as possible for localized nodular lymphocyte -predominant childhood Hodgkin lymphoma.
High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is a way of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood -forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body's blood cells.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
This summary section describes treatments that are being studied in clinical trials. It may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Proton beam radiation therapy
Proton-beam therapy is a type of high-energy, external radiation therapy that uses streams of protons (small, positively-charged particles of matter) to make radiation. This type of radiation therapy may help lessen the damage to healthy tissue near the tumor.
Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. See the Treatment Options section that follows for links to current treatment clinical trials. These have been retrieved from NCI's listing of clinical trials.
Follow-up tests may be needed.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your child's condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.
For patients who receive chemotherapy alone, a PET scan may be done 3 weeks or more after treatment ends. For patients who receive radiation therapy last, a PET scan should not be done until 8 to 12 weeks after treatment.
Low-Risk Classical Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma
Treatment of low-risk classical childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may include the following:
Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I childhood Hodgkin lymphoma and stage II childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Intermediate-Risk Classical Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma
Treatment of intermediate-risk classical childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may include the following:
Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I childhood Hodgkin lymphoma, stage II childhood Hodgkin lymphoma, stage III childhood Hodgkin lymphoma and stage IV childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
High-Risk Classical Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma
Treatment of high-risk classical childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may include the following:
Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage III childhood Hodgkin lymphoma and stage IV childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Nodular Lymphocyte-Predominant Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma
Treatment of nodular lymphocyte-predominant childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may include the following:
Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with childhood nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Treatment of primary refractory or recurrent childhood Hodgkin lymphoma may include the following:
Check the list of NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent/refractory childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about childhood Hodgkin lymphoma, see the following:
For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:
Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.
PDQ is a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH is the federal government's center of biomedical research. The PDQ summaries are based on an independent review of the medical literature. They are not policy statements of the NCI or the NIH.
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the treatment of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
Reviewers and Updates
Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") is the date of the most recent change.
The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board.
Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Clinical trials are listed in PDQ and can be found online at NCI's website. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
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The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/child-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389224]
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Last Revised: 2017-03-14
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