Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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

  • neck

  • armpit

  • groin

These swellings are enlarged lymph nodes.

See your GP if you have a swollen lymph node that does not go away after 3 to 4 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) and you don't know why

  • unexplained itching

Doctors call this group of symptoms B symptoms. Some people with NHL have these symptoms, but many don't.

Doctors assess whether you have B symptoms to stage Open a glossary item your NHL and plan your treatment.

Other symptoms

There can be many other symptoms depending on where your NHL is in the body. These include:

  • enlarged tonsils (these are at the back of your throat)
  • a lump in your tummy (abdomen) - this could be due to an enlarged liver or spleen or enlarged lymph nodes in the tummy
  • breathlessness (if lymphoma is affecting nodes in your chest)

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.

NHL in the bone marrow

Some people with NHL 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

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 these symptoms.

Your symptoms might be caused by other medical conditions. Your lymph nodes can get bigger when you 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. 

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