Lymphoma Symptoms

Lymphoma symptoms can range from non-existent to severe. In extreme cases, for instance, where the disease affects the central nervous system, the patient may suffer from confusion and/or seizures and acute neurological dysfunction. Most patients, however, experience no pain or discomfort, especially in the early stages.

Unfortunately, many symptoms of the condition are non-specific and the disease is often mistaken for other common illnesses, such as the common cold, flu or respiratory infections. Of course, most people reporting these non-specific symptoms do not have lymphoma, but anyone who experiences persistent symptoms should consult a physician to eliminate the possibility of lymphoma.

Non-specific Lymphoma Symptoms:

  • fever
  • sweating
  • hills
  • unexplained weight loss
  • itching
  • fatigue
  • lack of energy.

Physical Examination for Lymphoma

If lymphoma is suspected, a complete physical examination will be performed. The physician will palpate (feel) the lymph nodes in the neck, under the chin, around the tonsils, shoulders, elbows, under the arms and in the groin area. Other parts of the body will also be examined to establish whether swelling exists in the chest or abdomen, and particularly in the area of the spleen and liver.

Any indications of the presence of lymphoma detected during the physical examination will be followed up by further diagnostic tests such as a biopsy, blood tests, x-ray imaging, scans, as well as possibly bone marrow and cerebrospinal fluid tests.

Common Lymphoma Symptoms

The most common symptom is usually painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or underarms. Some people may also experience enlarged lymph nodes in other parts of the body, such as the spleen, groin, legs, or ankles. Also, swelling can occur in the abdomen, where the enlarged lymph nodes may cause discomfort or a bloated feeling.

Other common symptoms include fever, fatigue and anemia, the latter due to low red blood cell numbers. The patient may also show an increase in infections, resulting from lowered numbers of functioning white blood cells and an impaired immune system.

In most cases, however, the patient experiences no pain during the early stages of the disease.

Less Common Lymphoma Symptoms

In certain cases, the swollen lymph nodes may cause compression of the blood vessels, where the expanding lymphoma may trigger edema (swollen tissue) or thrombosis (blood clots).

Very rarely, lymphoma may be found in the eyes, testicles, skeleton or central nervous system.

Typical Symptoms Associated with Lymphoma:

  • painless swollen lymph nodes, in the neck, chest, armpit, groin or spleen
  • sweating and/or fever, especially at night
  • abnormal tiredness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • persistent itching
  • persistent cough
  • persistent breathlessness (especially if the chest is affected)
  • pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.


1Up Health. (2002). Hodgkin’s lymphoma causes, incidence, and risk factors. Retrieved April 14, 2003, from

American Cancer Society. (2003). What are the risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma? Retrieved April 14, 2003, from sk_factors_for_non-Hodgkins_lymphoma_32.asp?sitearea=.

Lymphoma Research Foundation. (2002). What are the risk factors? Retrieved April 14, 2003, from m.app1a