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GB-PDO-01312 | Date of Preparation: November 2020

What is classical Hodgkin lymphoma?1

The information provided on this site is general education information and does not take the place of your healthcare professional’s advice. Please always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions and talk with him/her about any questions or problems you have regarding your health and treatment

Most Hodgkin lymphoma occurs when an infection-fighting cell called a B cell develops a mutation in its DNA. The mutation tells the cells to divide rapidly and to continue living when a healthy cell would die. The mutation causes a large number of oversized, abnormal B cells to accumulate in the lymphatic system, where they crowd out healthy cells and cause the signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma.

Various types of Hodgkin lymphoma exist. The type is based on the types of cells involved in the disease and their behaviour. Your type determines your treatment options.

What causes classical Hodgkin lymphoma?1,3

Factors that may increase the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

Your age3

Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in people who are 20 to 34 years old or over 70 years old.

A family history of lymphoma1,3

Having a close family member who has Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma increases your risk slightly of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.

Your sex1

Males are slightly more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma.

Past Epstein-Barr infection1

People who have had illnesses caused by the Epstein-Barr virus are more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma than are people who haven't had Epstein-Barr infections.

A weakened immune system3

Having a compromised immune system, such as from HIV/AIDS or from having an organ transplant requiring medications to suppress the immune response, increases the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma.

Common symptoms1,2

The first symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is usually a swelling in the neck, armpit or groin. The swellings are usually painless, but some people may find that they ache.

Other symptoms may include any of the following:

Drenching and/or frequent sweats, especially at night

Unexplained high temperatures

Weight loss


A cough or breathlessness

A persistent itch all over the body

Treatment options

There are currently several different methods for treating relapsed* or refractory** cHL. Your treatment plan is chosen based on a number of factors:4

  • Where the cancer is on your body
  • Your General health
  • The stage of your cancer
  • Results of blood tests and scans

The list of relapsed or refractory cHL treatments below is not exhaustive and is not in any order. If you have any questions about any of these treatment options, please contact your healthcare team.

Radiotherapy – Uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.5

Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells.5

Steroids – Drugs given with chemotherapy to help treat lymphoma.5

Immunotherapies – Immunotherapies are a group of drugs that work with the body’s immune system, helping it to identify and destroy cancer cells.6

Targeted therapies – Are drugs that use unique features of the cancer to detect and destroy the cancer cells.5

Stem Cell Therapy – This is sometimes given after very high dose chemotherapy. The chemotherapy has a good chance of killing the cancer cells, but also kills the stem cells in your bone marrow, which are needed to make blood. Before your high dose chemotherapy, your team collects your stem cells or bone marrow, or will collect these from a donor. Once your chemotherapy is complete, you will receive the stem cells into your body through a drip. The stem cells will find their own way back to your bone marrow.7

*Relapsed is a return of cancer after treatment.8
**Refractory is a cancer that is does not respond to treatment.8

Further information

There is more information available about cHL on the following websites:

Cancer Research UK

Macmillan Cancer


  1. Mayo Clinic. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease). Available at:
  2. Macmillan Cancer Support. Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). Available at:
  3. Macmillan Cancer Support. Causes and risk factors of Hodgkin lymphoma. Available at:
  4. Macmillan Cancer Support. Treating lymphoma. Available at:
  5. Macmillan Cancer Support. Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL). Available at:
  6. Cancer Research UK. Immunotherapy. Available at:
  7. Cancer Research UK. Stem cell and bone marrow transplants. Available at:
  8. Lymphoma Foundation. Getting the facts Hodgkin Lymphoma: Relapsed/Refractory. Available at:

Supporting documentation

KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

Summary of Product Characteristics | Patient Information Leaflet

GB-PDO-01248 | Date of Preparation: November 2020