Understanding Hodgkin Lymphoma: Explore Your Options
If you’ve been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, it’s important to explore all options related to Hodgkin lymphoma treatment. Below, learn what’s next, what questions to ask the doctor, and what treatments are available.
Finding an Oncologist
The first step on the Hodgkin lymphoma treatment journey is to find an oncologist (medical or surgical) who inspires trust. It may seem overwhelming to choose an oncologist. First, start with referrals from your primary care physician, specialist, or insurance carrier. Talk to family and friends who may have recommendations.
Here are some things to consider when choosing an oncologist:
- Is the oncologist board certified?
- How much experience does he or she have in treating Hodgkin lymphoma cancer?
- Do you feel comfortable talking with this doctor? Does he or she listen well?
- Is the staff compassionate? Is the environment a good one or do you feel rushed?
- What hospital(s) does this oncologist see patients in?
- What are the office hours?
- What if you have an emergency? Can you call?
- Can this doctor be contacted after hours?
You will be spending a lot of time with the oncologist and staff nurses and technicians, so it’s important to feel comfortable with them.
As you and your doctor explore the treatment options open to you, make sure you find out the answers to the following:
- What are the chances my cancer will come back after this treatment?
- What do we do if the cancer comes back or the treatment doesn’t work?
- Will I lose my hair?
- Will it hurt?
- Will there be scars?
Choosing a Cancer Center
Choosing where to receive treatment is just as important as selecting an oncologist. It’s good to know the differences between hospitals. Here are some guidelines:
- Academic cancer centers: These are affiliated with medical schools. At these locations, high priority is put on research. They are usually located in large cities.
- Community cancer centers: The main focus is on patient care.
- Cancer centers: These are noted for a high quality of science and research.
Some questions to ask before choosing where to get your treatment include:
- Volume: How many Hodgkin lymphoma patients do you see annually?
- Travel: How far do you want to travel? Would there be extra costs?
- Cost: Is the hospital covered by your insurance plan?
- Accreditations: What accreditations does the hospital hold?
It’s helpful to understand the possible treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma cancer. Following are overviews of the most common treatments. Reading these should help you know what to expect, what the potential side effects are, and what the advantages are to each.
Common treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are:
Your doctor can describe your treatment choices and the expected results. You and your doctor will work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.
You may ask to be referred to a specialist. Hematologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists are the specialists who treat Hodgkin lymphoma. Often the doctors who specialize in treating Hodgkin lymphoma are at major academic centers.
The choice of treatment depends mainly on the following:
- The type of your Hodgkin lymphoma (most people have classical Hodgkin lymphoma)
- The IPSS score of your disease (IPSS is the International Prognostic Scoring System, which helps your doctor understand how treatable your Hodgkin lymphoma is)
- Whether you have a tumor that is more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide
- Your age
- Whether you have other serious health issues like heart disease, lung disease, etc.
The primary treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If Hodgkin lymphoma returns after treatment, a stem cell transplant may be necessary.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor
You may want to ask your doctor these questions before you begin treatment:
- What type of Hodgkin lymphoma do I have? May I have a copy of the report from the pathologist?
- What is the stage of my disease? Where is the disease?
- What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend for me? Why?
- Will I need radiation therapy? If so, why?
- What are the expected benefits of treatment?
- What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? What can we do to control the side effects?
- How long will the treatment last?
- What can I do to prepare for treatment?
- Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
- What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover the cost?
- How will treatment affect my normal activities?
- Would a clinical trial be right for me?
- How often should I have checkups after treatment?
- Will it affect my ability to have children (fertility)? If so, what can I do to preserve my fertility?