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Symptoms

Find out about the symptoms you might get if you have non Hodgkin lymphoma, and when to see your GP.

Painless swellings

The most common symptom of non Hodgkin lymphoma is one or more painless swellings in the:

  • neck
  • armpit
  • groin

Each swelling is an enlarged lymph node.

See your GP if you have a swollen lymph node that does not go away after 6 weeks.

General symptoms (B symptoms)

You might have other general symptoms such as:

  • heavy sweating at night
  • temperatures that come and go with no obvious cause
  • losing a lot of weight (more than one tenth of your total weight)

Doctors call this group of symptoms B symptoms. Some people may also have unexplained itching.

Some people with NHL have these symptoms, but many don't.

It is important to tell your doctor about any symptoms like this. It helps them to decide which type of NHL you have, and what treatment you need.

Non Hodgkin lymphoma in the bone marrow

Some people with non Hodgkin lymphoma have lymphoma cells in their bone marrow when they are diagnosed. This can cause low blood cell counts, such as:

  • low red blood cell counts (anaemia), causing tiredness and sometimes breathlessness
  • low white blood cell counts, increasing your risk of getting infections
  • low platelet counts, causing bleeding problems such as very heavy periods, nosebleeds or a rash of tiny blood spots under the skin

Other symptoms

There can be many other symptoms depending on where your non Hodgkin lymphoma is in the body. For example:

  • your tonsils might be enlarged
  • your liver might be enlarged
  • your spleen might be enlarged
  • you might have a lump in your abdomen (tummy)
  • you might feel breathless, if the lymph nodes in your chest are affected

Other symptoms can be caused by enlarged lymph nodes pressing on an organ or nerve.

Lymphomas that start in other organs, such as the stomach or skin, might cause symptoms such as weight loss or skin rashes.

Lymphomas of the brain

Lymphoma that starts in the brain is called primary cerebral lymphoma or primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. This is very rare. It can cause symptoms such as:

  • headaches
  • difficulty thinking
  • difficulty moving parts of the body
  • changes in personality
  • epileptic fits (seizures)

High grade lymphomas that started elsewhere in the body can sometimes spread to the brain. If this happens, you may have similar symptoms to these.

You should see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms described above.

Your symptoms might be caused by other medical conditions. Everyone's glands come up when they have a throat infection for example. 

Most people with these symptoms will not have a lymphoma but it is important to get your symptoms checked by your GP. 

Last reviewed: 
01 Sep 2014
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

    K Shankland and others (2012)

    Lancet Sep 1;380(9844):848-57

  • NICE cancer referral guidelines (2005)

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