INTRODUCTION: Radiation therapy (RT) was the first treatment modality demonstrating cure of Hodgkin's disease. Long-term side-effects of this treatment, however, have become evident in the past few years.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: By reviewing the results of megavoltage radiotherapy as initial treatment in a consecutive series of 106 patients with early-stage Hodgkin's disease (HD), survival, relapse-free interval, salvage rate of relapsing cases, and incidence of second tumours were evaluated.
RESULTS: Subtotal node irradiation was given to all patients with supradiaphragmatic disease, except for 15 patients with limited stage IA-IIA, who received mantle field treatment only. Inverted Y field irradiation was given to all seven patients with subdiaphragmatic disease. The median age was 32 years (range 14-77). The median follow-up was 140 months. The relapse-free interval of the patient population was 78% at 5 years and 72% at 10 years. The overall survival (OS) was 90% and 79%, respectively. Salvage therapy was successful in 26 of 30 relapsing patients. Twelve recurrences were located inside the treatment field. Sixteen patients (15%) developed second malignancies: cancer of the lung (two), ovary (two), cervix (one), colon (two), breast (three), stomach (one), skin (two), hypopharynx (one), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (two). Eleven of these were located within the radiation field.
CONCLUSION: Although RT is intended to be a curative treatment, up to 30% recurrences occur. Mortality was not determined by primary HD, but by second malignancies, which are likely related to treatment. New treatment strategies, aiming at long-term freedom from relapse without carcinogenic side-effects, are urgently needed.