Late Effects of earlier treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma- What you need to know NOW!

Long-term survivors of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma may face serious health issues as a consequence of earlier treatment modalities, particularly older forms of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Here are a few of the late effects we need to watch out for:

Heart Disease

Lung Disease

Thyroid Disease

Secondary Cancers such as Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, Leukemia, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Thyroid Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Skin Cancer, and others

Radiation Fibrosis- where normally healthy tissue becomes “sclerotic,” or hard and stiff

Debilitating Fatigue

Compromised Immune System- especially for those who had their spleen removed

Infertility

Depression

These are just a few of the possible late effects of earlier treatment. Older forms of radiation, such as cobalt radiation, may have particularly toxic repercussions. Think of the part of your body that received radiation, such as your chest, neck, abdomen, pelvis, etc. as being in “the line of fire”. Yes, the treatment may have cured the cancer, but it may have also left a path of destruction in its wake. Vital organs, like the heart and lungs, could be significantly compromised. Research now shows that long-term Hodgkin’s survivors who received radiation and certain chemotherapies are, in fact, at greater risk for heart disease. The risk is increased for those who have a history of cardiovascular disease. Similarly, many long-term survivors who had radiation and chemotherapy suffer from pulmonary fibrosis and other lung conditions. Numerous studies indicate that women who were treated with radiation for Hodgkin’s are at “high” risk for breast cancer.

Many long-term survivors of HL feel well for years, even decades after they end treatment. Some seem to have by-passed late effects all together. Others have been bombarded by so many health issues that they’ve literally lost count. While it is clear that more research needs to be done in this area, there is also an abundance of evidence that Hodgkin’s survivors are at risk. We owe it to ourselves to be aware, to be informed, and to be proactive about our health.

To read more about Late Effects for Hodgkin’s Survivors, go to the “News Feed” section under “Resources” at the top of this page. There you will find a number of articles on late effects, including research articles, blogs, suggested reading, and more.