Both cancer therapy and Hodgkin lymphoma itself can produce side effects. For most patients, treatment side effects are temporary and go away once therapy ends. For other patients, side effects can be more severe, sometimes requiring hospitalization.
Before you start treatment, talk with your doctor about potential side effects. Drugs and other therapies can prevent or manage many side effects.
Hodgkin lymphoma affects the immune system's ability to function properly, making you more prone to certain types of infections. Herpes zoster (shingles), for example, is one viral disease that occurs often in patients.
The potential for infection rises when chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments are added. You need to take an active role by following healthy habits and taking precautions to avoid infection, including talking to your doctor about receiving vaccinations such as the flu and pneumonia vaccine.
Suppressed Blood Cell Formation
Your blood cell counts can fall if you've been treated with chemotherapy. If your blood counts are low, you may need blood transfusions. If your white cell counts drop severely and for an extended time, you can develop infections and need antibiotic treatment. Your doctor may change your chemotherapy doses or the time between chemotherapy cycles so your blood counts can recover from the effects of treatment. Sometimes, you may be given drugs such as granulocyte-colony stimulating factors.
Men, women and children treated for Hodgkin lymphoma run the risk of chemotherapy affecting their ability to conceive a baby. Treatment can make patients less fertile; the degree that fertility is affected depends on the treatment and your age. If you're a male of child-bearing age, you may want to consider sperm banking before treatment. If you're female, you should discuss your options at length with your doctor. Some women experience ovarian failure after treatment, putting them into early menopause. Couples whose infertility isn't affected by a partner's treatment have the same chance of having a healthy baby as other couples in the general population.
Other Treatment Side Effects
Chemotherapy drugs are the main culprits when it comes to causing unwanted side effects. These drugs kill cancer cells, but they damage normal cells, too. The lining of the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines are particularly vulnerable to damage.
The side effects you may experience depend on:
- The intensity and type of chemotherapy
- The location of radiation therapy
- Your age
- Your overall health and whether you have any chronic health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease
The following side effects are common to chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplantation. Click here to read more about these side effects.
- Mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bladder irritation
- Blood in the urine
- Extreme fatigue
- Hair loss
- Tingling sensations
- Lung, heart or nerve problems
- Graft versus host disease (if you've undergone allogeneic stem cell transplantation)
Long-Term and Late Effects
For some patients, side effects may last well after they finish treatment. To read more about lingering side effects, see The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free information booklets:
- Long-Term and Late Effects of Treatment in Adults or Long-Term
- Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma Facts.
- Understanding Blood Counts
- Managing Side Effects
- Integrative Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Therapies
- Download lists of suggested questions to ask your doctor
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free booklet Understanding Side Effects of Drug Therapy