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Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma

Men and women discussing Hodgkin's lymphoma

This page tells you about the symptoms you may have if you have Hodgkin lymphoma. You can find information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma

The most common symptom is one or more painless swellings in the neck, armpit or groin. These swellings are enlarged lymph nodes. About 7 out of every 10 people (70%) diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma have a swollen lymph node in their neck. Usually, the swollen nodes don't hurt. But some people say their lumps ache, with some saying that they hurt after drinking alcohol. A very enlarged node in the neck can give you a stiff neck.

Other general symptoms

About 1 in 4 people have other more general symptoms. These are called B symptoms. They can include heavy sweating (especially at night), temperatures that come and go, and losing a lot of weight. Some people have itching, which may be worse after drinking alcohol. If the lymphoma affects lymph nodes in the chest or lungs it can cause a cough or breathlessness.

Hodgkin lymphoma in the bone marrow

If you have Hodgkin lymphoma in your bone marrow, you may have symptoms caused by low blood cell counts. These include breathlessness and tiredness, increased risk of infections, and bleeding problems such as nosebleeds.

Other possible symptoms

Other symptoms will depend on where in your body the lymphoma is. Enlarged lymph nodes can press on nerves and cause pain. Or they may cause swelling in arms or legs. Some people get yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) or small lumps (nodules) on the skin.

 

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The most common symptoms

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

  • Neck
  • Armpit
  • Groin

These swellings are enlarged lymph nodes. About 7 out of every 10 people (70%) diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma have a swollen lymph node in their neck. Lymph glands commonly swell if we have an infection but they then usually go back to normal over a short time. With a lymphoma the lymph nodes often grow slowly and may be there for months or years before they are noticed. But sometimes they grow very quickly.

Usually, the swollen nodes don't hurt. But some people say their lumps ache or are painful. And for some they are painful after drinking alcohol.

 

Other general symptoms

About 1 in 4 people (25%) have other more general symptoms such as

  • Heavy sweating – especially at night
  • High temperatures that come and go with no obvious cause (often overnight)
  • Losing a lot of weight over a short period of time
  • Itching, which may be worse after drinking alcohol
  • Cough or breathlessness
  • Abdominal pain or vomiting after drinking alcohol

The most common of these symptoms are high temperatures, sweating and weight loss. These are called B symptoms. When your lymphoma is staged, your doctor will ask you whether or not you have B symptoms. This can affect how you need to be treated.

A cough or breathlessness usually only happens if Hodgkin lymphoma affects the lymph nodes in the chest or the lungs.

 

Hodgkin lymphoma in the bone marrow

About 1 in 20 people (5%) have Hodgkin lymphoma in their bone marrow when they are diagnosed. If you have this, it can cause the following effects

  • Breathlessness and tiredness (because of anaemia from a low red blood cell count)
  • Increased risk of infections (because of a low white cell count)
  • Bleeding problems such as nosebleeds, very heavy periods, or a rash of tiny blood spots under the skin (because of a low platelet count)
 

Other possible symptoms

Other symptoms will depend on where in your body the Hodgkin lymphoma is. Enlarged lymph nodes can

  • Press on nerves and cause pain
  • Cause swelling in arms or legs by blocking normal tissue fluid circulation
  • Cause yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) by blocking the flow of bile from the liver

None of these are common symptoms, but they can happen. You may also have small lumps (nodules) develop on your skin, usually near the enlarged lymph nodes.

If you have any of these symptoms you must have them checked by your GP. But remember, they are all more likely to be caused by other conditions. Everyone's glands get larger when they have a throat infection, for example. Most people with these symptoms will not have Hodgkin lymphoma.

 

More information

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

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Updated: 13 June 2013