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 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.
Though rare, some people experience pain in the affected lymph nodes after consuming alcohol. Pain onset may occur immediately after drinking or several hours later. It is not known what causes this phenomenon.
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Symptoms vary based on the area affected by swollen lymph nodes. Swelling may press on nearby blood vessels, nerves, or other structures. This compression may interfere with normal function or cause pain. Symptoms by locations include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the face and arms
- Spinal area— numbness, muscle weakness, or paralysis
- Groin area—swelling in the legs or ankles from fluid build-up
- Liver— jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
The lymphatic system has several functions that affect the entire body. Systemic symptoms may include:
- 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
- Unintended weight loss
Rarely, Hodgkin lymphoma can trigger other syndromes in the body, called paraneoplastic syndromes. It occurs when an abnormal immune system attacks healthy cells of the nervous system. It can result in difficulty with motor skills like walking or swallowing, and changes in mental state.
Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114957/Hodgkin-lymphoma-HL. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Signs and symptoms. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/hodgkin-lymphoma/signs-and-symptoms. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkin-lymphoma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/28/2021