Understanding Lymphoma Cancer Symptoms

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The lymphatic system exists throughout the body as part of the immune system. Vessels carrying infection-fighting lymphocytes, lymph nodes, bone marrow, the spleen, the thymus gland and other lymphatic tissues make up this system. Cancer that develops in lymphatic tissue is known as lymphoma.

Affecting so many different areas of the body it is no wonder that there are many different types of lymphoma and varying signs and symptoms. Understanding lymphoma cancer symptoms is a way to be aware of the development of this disease. Still, it is important to understand that each individual will have a different experience and symptoms may vary. Seeing your doctor if there are any persistent, unexplained changes in well-being is important.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Lymphoma cancers are categorized as either Hodgkin disease or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Any cancer development in the lymphatic system that is not Hodgkin disease is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While there were an estimated 65,580 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States in 2010, Hodgkin disease is relatively rare. Fortunately this form of cancer can often be cured.

Hodgkin lymphoma is usually characterized by swollen lymph nodes, which may be noticed in the groin area, the neck or armpits. An enlarged lymph node as a symptom of Hodgkin disease will be painless. Other symptoms may indicate many different health issues. Persistent and reoccurring symptoms warrant a doctor’s visit. Unexplained weight loss, less interest in food, skin itching, fever, chills, night sweats and painful lymph nodes after drinking alcohol are all possible signs.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The fifth most common cancer in America, what are the signs of non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Swollen, yet painless lymph nodes are very common with non-Hodgkin as well as Hodgkin disease. With swelling around the neck, armpits or groin in addition to other signs your doctor may decide to test for lymphoma, which is done with a biopsy.

As cancer can develop in different parts of the lymphatic system, symptoms will be different depending on where a growth may be developing. For example:

  • In the abdomen lymphoma may cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
  • In the chest area it will lead to shortness of breath
  • In the brain it can cause headaches and vision changes
  • In the bone marrow it can lead to symptoms of anemia
  • In the thymus gland it can cause coughing and shortness of breath

Seeing Your Doctor

The only way to know cancer is developing somewhere in the lymphatic system is if you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. These are some of the common lymphoma cancer symptoms. As they are also possible signs of other health issues, including a simple infection, do not worry if signs occur. At the same time if your health changes and symptoms do not go away or if they return then be sure to see your doctor right away.


Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing.Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

MayoClinic, https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hodgkins-disease/DS00186

Medicine Plus, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hodgkindisease.html