Common lymphoma symptoms

The most common early symptom of lymphoma is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes in one area of the body, such as the neck, armpit or groin.

Some people have other lymphoma symptoms, depending on where the lymphoma is in their body. These local symptoms may include:

  • a cough, difficulty swallowing or breathlessness, if the lymphoma is in the chest area
  • indigestion, tummy pain or weight loss, if the lymphoma is in the stomach or bowel
  • pain – this is not common but may be caused by swollen lymph nodes pressing on tissue in a part of the body such as the back or tummy (abdomen). In some people with Hodgkin lymphoma swollen lymph nodes may ache or they may feel painful soon after drinking alcohol.

If lymphoma spreads to the bone marrow

This is more common with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) but can happen with Hodgkin lymphoma too. If lymphoma spreads to the bone marrow it can reduce the number of blood cells. This can cause:

  • tiredness, if you do not have enough red blood cells
  • difficulty fighting infections, if you do not have enough white blood cells
  • bruising or bleeding, if you do not have enough blood-clotting cells, called platelets.

Other lymphoma symptoms

Lymphoma can also cause symptoms which affect the whole body, including:

  • heavy, drenching night sweats (these can also happen during the day)
  • high temperatures that come and go without any obvious cause
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tiredness
  • itching of the skin all over the body that does not go away.

Some people do not have any of these symptoms and the lymphoma is found during tests for other conditions.

About our information

  • References

    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 cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Eichenauer DA, et al on behalf of the ESMO Guidelines Committee. Hodgkin's lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. 2014. 25 (Supplement 3): iii70-iii75. Available at: www.annalsofoncology.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0923-7534%2819%2934081-5

     

    Ladetto M et al. ESMO consensus conference on malignant lymphoma: general perspectives and recommendations for prognostic tools in mature B-cell lymphomas and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Annals of Oncology. 2016. 27: 12, 2149-2160. Available at: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0923753419365421

     

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Guideline NG47. Haematological cancers: improving outcomes. 2016. Available at: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng47

     

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Guideline NG52. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: diagnosis and management. 2016. Available at: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng52

  • Reviewers

    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 Editors, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist; and 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.