Signs and Symptoms
Making an early diagnosis is important to treatment and outcome. There are currently no screening tests for lymphomas and it is usually not evident in the blood.
Statistics provided by: Lymphoma Coalition 2014 Global Patient Survey (3,500 Respondents)
Common Signs and Symptoms
- Painless swelling in a lymph node
- Chills/temperature swings
- Recurrent fevers and excessive sweating at night
- Unintentional weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent tiredness and lack of energy
- Breathlessness and coughing
- Persistent itch all over the body without an apparent cause or rash
- General fatigue
- Enlarged tonsils
The symptoms of lymphoma are commonly seen in other, less serious illnesses, such as influenza or other viral infection. These symptoms are often overlooked, but in cases of less serious illnesses they would not last very long. With lymphoma, these symptoms persist over time and cannot be explained by an infection or another disease.
The most common symptom is a painless swelling in a lymph node. The neck or armpits are common places noticed first, but the swelling can occur in other parts of the body including the groin (that may cause swelling in the legs or ankles) or the abdomen (that can cause cramping and bloating). Some patients with lymphoma notice no swelling at all while others may complain of night sweats, weight loss, chills, a lack of energy, or itching. There is usually no pain involved, especially when the lymphoma is in the early stage of development. Most people who have nonspecific complaints such as these will not have lymphoma. However, it is important that any person who has symptoms that persist see a doctor to confirm that no lymphoma or serious illness is present.
- In certain instances, people feel pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.
- If the lymphoma involves lymphatic tissue within the abdomen, bowel or stomach, fluid may build up causing swelling near the intestines, potentially leading to sensations of abdominal pressure, pain, diarrhea and/or indigestion.
- The enlarged lymph node sometimes causes other symptoms by pressing against a vein (causing swelling of an arm or leg), or against a nerve (causing pain, numbness, or tingling in an arm or leg).
- Some people experience lower back pain that is unexplained. It is thought that this may be caused by expanding lymph nodes pressing on nerves.
- As lymphomas progress and cancerous lymphocytes spread beyond the lymphatic system, the body loses its ability to fight infection. The generalised symptoms that develop may be confused with signs of influenza, tuberculosis, other infections such as infectious mononucleosis, or other cancers.
Lymphoma Coalition recognises the necessity for critical lymphoma data like incidence, mortality and prevalence to be recorded by individual subtypes. Recording this information by combining statistics for multiple different subtypes under non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) does not adequately serve patient needs. NHL is not a disease in itself but a series of subtypes that need to be independently tracked to ensure proper trending analysis and outcomes reporting.
Patients with lymphoma need to know the exact subtype they have. Numerous patient organisations around the world have reported that it is not made clear to many patients what subtype they have by their healthcare professional; instead, they are told they have NHL or lymphoma in general.
LC will continue to insist that NHL is not a single disease but a series of lymphoma subtypes requiring independent tracking and reporting to ensure patients receive the care specific to their subtype. It is also vitally important that doctors tell their patients what subtype they have and not just tell them they have NHL. Treatment depends on the subtype and without this information, patients may not be clear on what treatment they should receive.