Signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The most common early symptom of NHL 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 symptoms, depending on where the lymphoma is in their body. 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 isn’t 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).

If NHL 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.

NHL can also cause general symptoms, including:

  • repeated heavy, drenching sweats at night
  • high temperatures that come and go without any obvious cause
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tiredness
  • itching of the skin that doesn’t go away.

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Back to Understanding non-Hodgkin lymphoma

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

In non-Hodgkin lymphoma, blood cells called lymphocytes become abnormal. It is the fifth most common cancer in the UK.

Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

There are many types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These are often described as B-cell or T-cell lymphoma– depending on where they began.