Complications of Hodgkin lymphoma 

Some people treated for Hodgkin lymphoma experience long-term problems, even if they've been cured.

Some of the main complications of Hodgkin lymphoma are described below.

Weakened immune system

Having a weakened immune system is a common complication of Hodgkin lymphoma and it can become more severe while you're being treated.

If you have a weak immune system, you're more vulnerable to infections and there's an increased risk of developing serious complications from infections. In some cases, you may be advised to take regular doses of antibiotics to prevent infections.

It's also important to report any symptoms of an infection to your GP or care team immediately, as prompt treatment may be needed to prevent serious complications.

Symptoms of infection include:


You should make sure that all of your vaccinations are up-to-date.

However, it's important to speak to your GP or care team about this, as it may not be safe for you to have "live" vaccines (vaccines containing a weakened form of the virus or organism being vaccinated against) until several months after your treatment finishes.

Examples of live vaccines include the:


Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma can cause infertility. This is sometimes temporary, but it can be permanent.

Your care team will estimate the risk of infertility in your specific circumstances and let you know your options.

In some cases, it may be possible for men to store samples of their sperm and for women to store their eggs before treatment, so these can be used to try for a baby afterwards.

Second cancers

People who have had Hodgkin lymphoma are more likely to get lymphoma, leukaemia or other cancers in the future. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy further increase this risk.

"Second cancers", such as breast cancer or lung cancer, usually develop more than 10 years after you're treated for Hodgkin lymphoma. In rare cases, other types of cancer, such as leukaemia or other lymphomas, develop after only a few years.

You can help to reduce your risk of a second cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle through not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.

You should report any symptoms that might suggest another cancer to your GP at an early stage and attend any cancer screening appointments you're invited to.

Other health problems

The risk of developing other health conditions in the future, such as cardiovascular disease and lung disease, is also higher in people who have had Hodgkin lymphoma.

You should report unexpected symptoms, such as increasing shortness of breath, to your GP for further advice.

Page last reviewed: 15/10/2015

Next review due: 15/10/2017