Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms will appear as the disease progresses. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to cancer. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other, less serious conditions, like an infection. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.
The most common symptom is a painless swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in the neck, collarbone, armpit, or groin are most affected, but swelling can occur in lymph nodes anywhere in the body. Swollen lymph nodes can be felt just under the skin and may change in size over the course of time. If the lymph nodes shrink, it does not mean the problem is gone. In general, if you have swelling that lasts longer than 2 weeks, it should be reported to your doctor.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
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The lymphatic system has several functions that affect the entire body. As lymphoma progresses it may cause:
Persistent or recurrent fever that is not specific to another conditionSevere, recurring night sweatsIntense itching, especially after a shower or exposure to heat—may be with reddish or purplish lumps under the skinFatigue, which may be caused by low red blood cell counts (anemia)Bruising or bleeding, which may be caused by low platelet countsPersistent and frequent infections, which may be caused by low white blood cell countsLoss of appetite, which may be with unintended weight loss
Swollen lymph nodes may also press on nearby blood vessels, nerves, or other structures. This compression may interfere with normal function and cause a variety of symptoms. Possible symptoms by location of swollen lymph nodes include: Abdomen: Swelling and tendernessFeeling full after eating a small amountNausea and/or vomitingProblems with bowel movementsChest: CoughChest painDifficulty breathingSwelling in the face and neck (may be with or without redness)Groin area—problems with urinary flow, which can lead to kidney diseaseBrain and/or spinal cord—headache, weakness, numbness, speech problems, vision problems, or personality changesBones—pain
General information about adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
Updated March 3, 2016. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003126-pdf.pdf. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin-lymphomas. Updated October 2012. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Signs and symptoms. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/signs-and-symptoms. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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