Signs & Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) can cause a variety of warning signs and symptoms, depending on both the type and location of the disease. In some cases, symptoms may not arise until the cancer has reached a more advanced stage. Areas where non-Hodgkin lymphoma may form include:

  • Abdomen
  • Chest
  • Brain
  • Skin (rare)

Some common signs and symptoms of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Fever
  • Sweating and chills
  • Weight loss

Your hematologist may refer to some of these symptoms as "B symptoms," which is another way to describe specific systemic (general) symptoms associated with both Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

If the lymphoma started in the abdomen, symptoms may also include:

  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
  • Abdominal pain or swelling, caused by an enlarged spleen, liver or buildup of fluids in the abdomen

If the lymphoma started in the chest there may also be:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • SVC Syndrome: this is when tumors or swollen lymph nodes in the chest area squeeze the superior vena cava (SVC), a major vein feeding blood from the head, arms, and upper body into the heart. This can lead to swelling in the head, arms, and upper chest.

Some people may also look bluish-red in color. This swelling can cause breathing difficulties and an altered state of consciousness if it affects the brain. SVC syndrome, as is usually caused by cancer and should be treated right away because it can be life-threatening.

In rare cases, lymphoma will start in the skin, causing itchy red or purple lumps or bumps, along with other general symptoms.

Some symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes and fever, can also be symptoms of a cold, flu, or other infection. The difference, however, is that NHL symptoms typically do not improve. If any symptoms persist over two weeks, or if symptoms continue to recur with greater intensity, you should see your doctor immediately.