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Cancer Health Center

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Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Hodgkin Lymphoma During Pregnancy


Since Hodgkin lymphoma affects primarily young adults, most oncologists will eventually face the dilemma of how to provide therapy to a pregnant woman while minimizing the risk to the fetus. Treatment choice must be individualized, taking into consideration the mother's wishes, the severity and pace of the Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), and the length of the remaining pregnancy. Since general guidelines can never substitute for clinical judgment, oncologists should be prepared to alter the initial plans when necessary.

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Stage Information

To avoid exposure to ionizing radiation, magnetic resonance imaging is the preferred tool for staging evaluation.[1] The presenting stage, clinical behavior, prognosis, and histologic subtypes of HL during pregnancy do not differ from those of nonpregnant women during their childbearing years.[2] See the Stage Information for Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma section for more information.

Treatment Option Overview

HL that is diagnosed in the first trimester of pregnancy does not constitute an absolute indication for therapeutic abortion. Each patient must be looked at individually to take into account the stage and rapidity of growth of the lymphoma and the patient's wishes.[3] If the HL presents in early stage above the diaphragm and appears to be growing slowly, patients can be followed carefully with plans to induce delivery early and proceed with definitive therapy.[4] Alternatively, these patients can receive radiation therapy with proper shielding.[5,6,7,8] Investigators at M.D. Anderson reported no congenital abnormalities in 16 babies delivered after the mothers had received supradiaphragmatic radiation while shielding the uterus with five half-value layers of lead.[9] Because of theoretical risks that the fetus might develop future malignancies from even minimal scattered radiation doses outside the radiation field, radiation therapy should be postponed, if possible, until after delivery.[10]

Chemotherapy that is administered in the first trimester has been associated with congenital abnormalities in as many as 33% of infants.[11,12] However, in one series, there were no adverse effects in 14 children of mothers who received a combination of mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone (MOPP) or a combination of doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD) during gestation, five of whom began treatment during the first trimester.[13] Consequently, some women may opt to continue the pregnancy and agree to radiation therapy or chemotherapy if immediate treatment is required.

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