The most common symptom of lymphoma is a painless swelling or lump in the neck, armpit or groin. This is caused by lymphoma cells building up in the lymph nodes, which makes them bigger.
There are different causes of swollen lymph nodes. But if you notice a painless, swollen lymph node, it is important to get it checked by your GP.
Lymph nodes are part of the system that helps protect your body from infection and disease. When the lymph nodes are fighting infection, they often swell and become sore to touch.
If there is cancer in the lymph nodes, they may swell, but are usually painless.
Some people have other symptoms, depending on where the lymphoma is in their body.
Signs and symptoms of lymphoma
If the lymphoma is in the chest area, symptoms may include a cough, difficulty swallowing or shortness of breath.
If the lymphoma is in the stomach or bowel, it may cause indigestion, tummy pain or weight loss. Indigestion is also called heartburn or acid reflux. Symptoms include a burning feeling in the chest, burping or feeling full and bloated.
Sometimes pressure from swollen lymph nodes may cause pain. For example, it can cause pain in an area such as the tummy (abdomen). This is not common.
Rarely, and only in Hodgkin lymphoma, a symptom is aching or painful swollen lymph nodes soon after drinking alcohol.
Lymphoma can also cause symptoms that affect the whole body, including:
- heavy, drenching sweats, especially at night
- high temperatures or fevers over 38˚C (100.4˚F) that come and go without any obvious cause
- unexplained weight loss
- itching all over the body that does not go away.
Some types of lymphoma may cause other symptoms:
Lymphoma B symptoms are:
- heavy drenching night sweats
- unexplained high temperatures
- unexplained weight loss.
Doctors use information about B symptoms to help stage lymphoma and plan treatment. They are called B symptoms because the letter B is added after the stage number if you have them. For example, the lymphoma may be described as stage 1B.
If the lymphoma is in the bone marrow it can reduce the number of blood cells in your body. Bone marrow is spongy material in the middle of bones where blood cells are made.
If the lymphoma is in the bone marrow, this can cause:
- tiredness, if you do not have enough red blood cells - a low number of red blood cells is called anaemia
- difficulty fighting infections, if you do not have enough white blood cells
- bruising or bleeding, if you do not have enough blood-clotting cells (platelets).
Below is a sample of the sources used in our lymphoma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Blood and bone marrow cancers. NICE Pathways. Last accessed 3 December 2020.
Hodgkin lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2018).
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: diagnosis and management; NICE Guideline (July 2016).
Newly Diagnosed and Relapsed Follicular Lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2020).
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.
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