Lymphoma in the legs can cause swelling and skin rashes in addition to fever, unintentional weight loss, and fatigue. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplants.
Your lymphatic system is an important part of your immune system. It includes your spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that can occur in any of your body’s lymph nodes, including your inner thighs, which can affect your legs.
When lymphoma affects your inner thighs, it can also cause other symptoms in your legs, such as swelling and a skin rash. These symptoms are in addition to generalized lymphoma symptoms.
This article describes more of the symptoms you may experience, how treatment for lymphoma in the legs depends on many factors, and what you may want to discuss with your healthcare team.
Lymphomas of any kind can form in any of your body’s lymph nodes. Common areas include the armpits, neck, and groin. But any of the body’s lymph nodes can be the first site of lymphoma. From there, lymphoma can spread to the surrounding area.
Inguinal nodes are the lymph nodes in your groin and inner thigh. When the lymph vessels drain, it can also cause general swelling of your lower legs and ankles.
Some people with lymphoma in their legs experience additional symptoms that affect their skin. This can include an itchy rash on the legs.
Types of lymphoma
There are over 70 types of lymphoma.
The major types of lymphoma are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There are multiple subtypes of lymphoma that are classified as either NHL or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. NHLs are more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Doctors determine subclasses of lymphoma by analyzing the affected cells and how fast the cancer is growing.
Symptoms of lymphoma in your legs are not limited to leg and lymph node swelling along with a skin rash. Lymphoma that develops in the legs also causes generalized lymphoma symptoms. These symptoms affect your entire body and include:
The first step in the diagnostic process is a medical appointment and physical exam.
During this exam, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any personal or family history of cancer. They will also check for any swollen lymph nodes.
If your doctor suspects you have lymphoma in your legs, they will order tests to confirm the diagnosis. These can include:
- Blood test: Blood tests can look for levels of cells and chemicals that lymphoma can affect. This can include blood cells, such as white blood cells and red blood cells, along with certain enzymes and proteins.
- Lymph node biopsy: A lymph node biopsy can confirm a diagnosis of lymphoma in the legs. During a biopsy, a doctor will remove all or part of one of the swollen lymph nodes in your leg. The sample will be sent to a lab to test for cancer cells.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, can help doctors see whether lymphoma has spread throughout the body.
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: To do a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, a doctor inserts a long and hollow needle into your hip bone to remove a sample of bone marrow. The sample is then analyzed in a lab to test for lymphoma cells.
Your exact lymphoma treatment plan depends on many factors, such as the cancer stage at diagnosis, your overall health, and how fast the lymphoma is growing.
Common treatments include:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy can kill and stop the growth of cancer cells. Sometimes, chemotherapy and radiation are used together to treat lymphoma in the leg.
- Stem cell transplant: A stem cell transplant replaces your body’s unhealthy bone marrow cells with new bone marrow stem cells. Transplants can be done using your own stem cells or donor stem cells. You can read more about bone marrow transplants here.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a specialized treatment that helps your body find and kill cancer cells.
The prognosis, or outlook, for lymphoma in the legs depends on a variety of factors. These factors include:
- Your age: Younger people typically have a better outlook.
- The stage of lymphoma at diagnosis: An earlier diagnosis is linked to a better outcome.
- How far the lymphoma has spread: People with lymphoma that’s still contained in their lymph nodes when at diagnosis have a better outlook than people with lymphoma that has spread to organs, such as the spleen.
- Performance status: This assessment is a tool doctors use to discuss how well a person with lymphoma can go about their daily routine and do everyday self-care tasks. People who can still do these tasks have a better outlook than people who are not.
- Level of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH): LDH levels rise when the amount of lymphoma in the body does. High levels of LDH are linked to lowered survival rates.
The type of lymphoma you have can also make a big difference in your survival odds. According to the
- follicular lymphoma: 90%
- NHL: 74%
- large diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: 65%
These survival rates are based on data compiled between 2012 and 2018. Cancer treatments have improved in the past several years, and it’s likely that current 5-year survival rates are higher.
Lymphoma in the legs causes symptoms such as swelling and a skin rash. People with lymphoma in their legs typically also develop more whole-body symptoms, such as fever, unintentional weight loss, and frequent infections.
If your doctor suspects you have lymphoma, they will likely order tests, such as a lymph node biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, and blood testing, to confirm the diagnosis.
Your treatment depends on individual factors but typically includes chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplants. Newer options, such as immunotherapy, can also help treat lymphoma in the legs.
Treatments and outcomes for people with lymphoma in their legs have improved over the past half-decade and are likely to see continued improvement in the coming years.