Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms

There are over 500 lymph nodes throughout the body, all connected through a network of lymph vessels. Clusters of lymph nodes can be found in the neck, armpits, groin, abdomen, pelvis and chest.

It’s possible for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) to develop anywhere throughout body where nodes exist. The disease may also affect extranodal organs, such as the liver, stomach and lungs.

Because there are so many forms of NHL that can involve different organs, symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma vary depending on the type, location and stage of the disease. NHL symptoms tend to be fairly non-specific and share many similar characteristics with other illnesses, such as a cold, the flu and other types of respiratory infection.

cancer symptoms

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms

Some common non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, groin
  • Night sweats (often soaking the sheets) and/or chills
  • Persistent fatigue, lethargy, feeling of tiredness
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or swelling, feeling of fullness
  • Skin rash or itchy skin (pruritus)
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty moving parts of the body
  • Pain in the chest, abdomen or bones for no known reason

Swollen lymph nodes, a fever and night sweats may also be symptoms of the cold and flu. However, unlike the cold and flu, non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms typically do not go away. If you have symptoms that persist for more than two weeks, or symptoms that are recurring and becoming more intense, you should see your doctor.

Dramatic weight loss in a short amount of time, such as losing more than 10 percent of your normal weight in less than six months, is also a sign to seek medical attention. Sometimes, the only NHL symptom present is constant fatigue.

SVC syndrome

Lymphomas may occur anywhere in the network of lymph vessels throughout the body. Tumors or swollen lymph nodes in the chest area may squeeze the superior vena cava (SVC), a major vein feeding into the heart.

When this happens, the blood coming from the head, arms and chest may get backed up and cause swelling, or turn the skin to a bluish-red color. This condition may possibly become severe and require medical treatment, especially if the oxygen supply to the brain becomes restricted.

B symptoms

B symptoms are a group of general symptoms that may be indicators of a rapidly developing lymphoma. B lymphoma symptoms are often identified during the staging process to help determine an overall prognosis and guide treatment decisions.

The staging process generally rates the extent and spread of cancer using Roman numerals I-IV. The staging of NHL is unique in that it also assigns the letters A and B to each stage. The letters refer to whether or not certain symptoms are present.

The letter B indicates that a person is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: drenching night sweats, fever or unexplained weight loss. If none of these symptoms are present, then the letter A is used. B symptoms may be signs of a more advanced cancer.

Last Revised: 10/12/2015

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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