Radiation Therapy for Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

At NYU Langone, our doctors sometimes recommend radiation therapy for children with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma or for those whose cancer does not respond well to chemotherapy. During radiation therapy, energy beams penetrate the skin, destroying cancer cells. It is delivered externally from a machine that directs radiation toward the cancer cells. Our radiation oncologists use the lowest possible doses to lessen its effects on nearby healthy tissues or organs.

During radiation therapy, your child lies on a table that slides into a machine. Your child may be fitted with a plastic body cast to keep him or her in the same position during each treatment. Small tattoos may be added to the skin to help the technician position the machine. 

Young children may require sedation or general anesthesia to ensure they lie still during the procedure.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

With external beam radiation therapy, high-energy beams are directed toward cancer cells. The procedure takes five minutes, and sessions are typically scheduled five days a week for up to four weeks, depending on how advanced the cancer is. This type of radiation therapy is not targeted, so healthy tissue may also be affected.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

In intensity modulated radiation therapy, computer-controlled machines called X-ray accelerators deliver radiation to tumors in the chest and abdomen, while reducing damage to organs such as the heart and spleen. The intensity of the radiation beams can be adjusted to allow different parts of the tumor to receive different doses of radiation, as needed. 

The procedure takes five minutes, and treatments are given five days a week over four weeks. 

Proton Therapy

Proton radiation therapy may be used for children with tumors in the neck or chest to protect healthy cells and organs, including the esophagus, heart, or lungs, from radiation damage. 

This targeted, low-dose radiation therapy delivers charged particles to cancer cells with minimal effect on healthy tissue. The procedure takes five minutes, and treatments are given five days a week over four weeks.

Managing Side Effects

The most common side effects of radiation therapy are fatigue and burned, peeling skin, similar to sunburn. Other side effects depend on the parts of the body that receive radiation. 

Children with Hodgkin lymphoma frequently receive radiation to the neck and chest, so side effects can include difficulty swallowing and a loss of appetite. They typically go away after treatment ends.

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