8 Warning Signs of Lymphoma

What You Need to Know About Lymphoma

The warning signs of lymphoma are so subtle that it may take some time before you realize that there is anything seriously wrong. Here is a list of the common symptoms of lymphoma. Most of these symptoms can also indicate harmless conditions, so if you experience one or more, don't be alarmed. Consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

What are Lymphomas?

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphocyte type of white blood cells, and these cancers usually start in the lymph nodes, though not always.

There are actually many different kinds of lymphoma, but for historical reasons lymphoma is essentially divided up into two categories: Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) – also called Hodgkin's disease – and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), which essentially refers to all other lymphomas.

Painless lumps in your neck, armpits or groin

Doctor examining glands of female patient
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This is the most common symptom and often the only one. These are enlarged lymph nodes. Most people first notice these lumps while bathing or changing, or they may be first felt by your partner. Enlarged nodes are not always a sign of lymphoma.

Sometimes there are no symptoms at first, but when symptoms are present, the most common symptom of Hodgkin disease is an enlarged lymph node. Usually the lump is not painful, but sometimes it may become painful after drinking alcohol.

Cancers other than lymphoma can also cause swollen lymph nodes. And, it should be noted that most cases of enlarged lymph nodes are due to other things, such as infection, rather than cancer. This is especially true in children. Enlarged nodes due to infection generally return to their normal size a couple of weeks or months after the infection clears.  It is best, however, to see your doctor about enlarged lymph nodes so that a cause can be found and treatment begun, if needed.

Weight loss

Weight loss usually occurs rapidly for no known reason. Often an individual can lose ten to fifteen pounds over a couple of months.


Fever that is continuous or occurs intermittently over a period of time and doesn't seem related to a chest or urinary infection is a good sign that you should consult a doctor. Fever that is related to node swellings occurs commonly with infections, and many lymphomas are often mistaken for infections at the early stage. Occasionally, in those affected by Hodgkin lymphoma, a characteristic fever called Pel-Ebstein fever occurs.

Excessive sweating at night

This unique situation may be quite bothersome. You may wake up at night drenched in sweat without any apparent reason.

Itchiness all over your body

Another unique situation, full-body itching is related to the secretion of some special chemicals from the lymphoma cells.

Loss of appetite

As lymphomas spread within your body and grow, many individuals feel a considerable loss of their appetite, further accelerating weight loss. Weight loss of more than 10% is one of the B-symptoms of lymphoma.

A feeling of weakness

As cancer cells are always growing, they use up more of the body's nutrients, leaving the body with less. This makes you feel weaker, as does hypercalcemia, which can accompany symptoms. The weakness may also be caused by anemia if the lymphoma is occupying the bone marrow where red blood cells are produced. 

Breathlessness along with swelling of the face and neck

Rarely, when a lymphoma in the neck or chest grows very large, it may block the flow of some vessels and lead to a swelling of the face and neck along with a feeling of breathlessness.

As lymphomas can occur in any organ, may give rise to some unusual symptoms as well. A lymphoma in the stomach can cause pain in the abdomen, and a lymphoma in the brain can cause headaches or leg weakness.

If you experience several of these symptoms or feel at all concerned that you might have lymphoma, see your doctor. Only a medical professional can properly diagnose the cause of your symptoms.

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