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.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
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.
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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 condition
- Severe, recurring night sweats
- Intense itching, especially after a shower or exposure to heat—may be with reddish or purplish lumps under the skin
- Fatigue, which may be caused by low red blood cell counts ( anemia)
- Bruising or bleeding, which may be caused by low platelet counts
- Persistent and frequent infections, which may be caused by low white blood cell counts
- Loss 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:
- Swelling and tenderness
- Feeling full after eating a small amount
- Nausea or vomiting
- Problems with bowel movements
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the face and neck (may be with or without redness)
- Pelvic area—problems with urinary flow, which can lead to kidney disease
- Brain or spinal cord—headache, weakness, numbness, speech problems, vision problems, or personality changes
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Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin-lymphomas. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Signs and symptoms. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/signs-and-symptoms. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/28/2021