The most common early sign of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is painless swelling (enlargement) of one or more lymph nodes. Most people have affected lymph nodes in the upper part of their body, usually the neck or upper chest. Sometimes you can feel the affected lymph node(s) in your armpit, stomach area or groin. This swelling causes a lump that is generally painless but persistent, usually lasting for up to six weeks. Lots of other infections also cause swollen glands but by comparison these are usually tender and shrink away quickly.
But this only applies to non-Hodgkin lymphomas that develop in lymph nodes, which are called nodal lymphomas. Some non-Hodgkin lymphomas develop in other tissues around the body that the lymphatic system extends to, such as the kidneys, lungs and gut. These are called extranodal non-Hodgkin lymphomas and do not cause the same characteristic swellings.
In addition to swollen lymph nodes, other signs and symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma may include:
- Fever without an obvious cause*
- Drenching sweats, especially at night*
- Unexplained weight loss*
- Abdominal pain due to enlarged liver and spleen
- Shortness of breath during normal activity
- Tiredness or no energy
- Itchy skin
It is unlikely that patients will show all these symptoms.
*The first three symptoms are also called ‘B’ symptoms