relapsed Hodgkin Lymphoma

Relapsed Hodgkin Lymphoma: Understanding Treatment Options

Hodgkin lymphoma is an uncommon type of cancer of the lymph nodes in which malignant cells abnormally multiply in certain parts of the body. For many individuals, treatment is successful in managing the disease. Sometimes, however, treatment no longer effectively controls the cancer, leading to relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma. People who have been diagnosed with relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma will need to consider a range of treatment options for their specific form of the disease.

Types of Relapsed Hodgkin Lymphoma

Relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma can be categorized into three types: early relapse, late relapse, and refractory relapse. Early relapse occurs within two years of the end of first-line treatment. Late relapse is diagnosed two to five years after the initial treatment is complete. Refractory relapse occurs when the cancer does not respond to the initial treatment. People who relapse may have the same form of Hodgkin lymphoma or a new form, called a transformation variant.

Treatment Options for Relapsed Hodgkin Lymphoma

Treatment of relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma will depend on the type of the relapse and the patient's individual situation. Possible treatment options include:

  • Re-treatment with chemotherapy and radiation
  • High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
  • Checkpoint inhibitor therapy
  • Targeted therapy with monoclonal antibodies
  • Immunotherapy

It is important to speak with your doctor to get an individualized treatment recommendation. It is also a good idea to seek a second opinion when making treatment decisions.

Side Effects of Treatment

Most treatments for relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma will come with side effects. Common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation include hair loss, nausea, fatigue, infection, and an increased risk of certain infections. High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplants can cause these side effects and additional ones, including: reduced fertility, lung inflammation, hormone imbalance, and damage to organs. Immunotherapy and targeted therapy carry the risk of allergic reactions.


Treating relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma can be emotionally challenging. It is important to find ways to cope with the side effects of the treatments and the emotional distress of the diagnosis. Healthcare providers may offer counseling or refer patients to support groups. Local organizations may also provide assistance and resources. Connecting with other people who are going through the same experience can be a great source of emotional support.