Lymphoma Symptoms

Written by Dale Kiefer | Published on November 6, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on November 6, 2014

Lymphoma Symptoms

Lymphoma is relatively easy to diagnose. However, it often escapes detection in the early stages. Early symptoms may be either nonexistent or fairly mild. Symptoms of lymphoma are also non-specific. Common symptoms are easily overlooked or ignored. They include:

  • fatigue
  • night sweats
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fever
  • chills
  • itching

The first clear sign of possible lymphoma is usually an enlarged lymph node. Nodes may be tender or even painful to the touch. However, many people have no pain. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) are more likely to cause painless swelling. 

The lymph nodes are widely distributed throughout the body. Some are deep. Others are fairly close to the surface. Swellings in more superficial locations are more noticeable. These include lymph nodes in the:

  • armpits
  • neck
  • groin

A lump at one of these sites does not necessarily indicate lymphoma. Swollen lymph nodes are more likely to be caused by infection than cancer. For example, swelling in the nodes of the neck is frequently linked to sinus infections. During infection, white blood cells (lymphocytes) flood the nodes.

Swellings in the nodes of the armpits or abdomen need more immediate attention. They are less likely to be related to temporary infections.


Fatigue and listlessness can be symptoms of lymphoma. However, fatigue can also be a sign of nothing more than insufficient sleep or poor diet. However, persistent fatigue is something that should be checked out by a doctor. Even if it’s not caused by lymphoma, it may be a sign of another condition needing treatment.

Night Sweats, Chills and Fever

Fever is a natural response to infection. It’s often accompanied by chills. Night sweats may occur if you have a fever while asleep.

Unexplained fevers that come and go repeatedly should be reported to a physician for further evaluation. They can be a sign of lymphoma.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Sudden, unexplained weight loss of 10 percent or more of body weight may signal lymphoma. Like other lymphoma symptoms, it may also be due to other medical conditions. Extensive and unintentional weight loss should be discussed with a doctor. It can be a sign of a serious health problem. 

Rash and Itching

Lymphoma can sometimes cause an itchy rash. Rashes are most commonly seen in lymphomas of the skin. They may appear as reddish or purple scaly areas. These rashes often occur in skin folds. They can spread as the lymphoma progresses.  They can easily be confused with other conditions like eczema. Lymphoma can also form lumps or nodules under the skin.

Chest Pain or Lower Back Pain

The thymus is a small, two-lobed organ that is located behind the breast bone (sternum) and between the lungs. It’s part of the immune system. Occasionally lymphoma affects the thymus gland, and this can cause chest pain.

Rarely, lymphoma affects lymph nodes located in the lower back. Swelling there may put pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord. However, there are many other more likely causes of lower back pain. 

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