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Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - What are the symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can start almost anywhere in your body. What symptoms you get depends on where your lymphoma is. Some lymphomas don't cause any symptoms until they get very big.

The most common symptom is a lump that you might be able to feel. It depends where the lump is. Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas can grow almost anywhere in your body. If they're close to your skin, you should be able to feel them. But if they're deeper inside your body, you won't.

Main symptoms

Here's what we know about lumps from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

  • If a lymph node swells up, you may be able to feel one or more lumps in your neck, armpit, or groin.

  • If you get a lump outside a lymph node, you might be able to feel it if it's in your abdomen or your testicles.

  • You can have lumps in just one part of your body, such as in your neck. Or you can have lumps in two or more parts of your body at the same time, such as in your neck and your groin.

  • The lumps don't usually hurt, even when you feel or squeeze them.

  • They can grow slowly or quickly.

  • Sometimes the lumps get very big.

  • The lumps can come and go, but they last for at least six weeks.

nhl-swollen-lymph-final_default.jpgAbout 1 in 3 people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma get other symptoms too. Doctors call these symptoms non-specific, because you can get them with many other illnesses. For example, you can get all the symptoms listed below if you have tonsillitis, a bad tooth, or the flu. The symptoms are:[5]

  • Tiredness

  • Bad sweats at night that soak your night clothes or sheets

  • A high temperature

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss.

Other symptoms

Here are some more specific symptoms you might get.

  • Bleeding inside your gut, which makes you vomit blood or pass blood in your stools. Lymphomas in your gut can bleed, make a hole in your gut wall, or block the way through. If any of these things happen, you need immediate treatment in hospital.

  • Severe pain in your abdomen. Lymphomas can grow anywhere along your digestive tract from your throat to your rectum. They cause pain if your gut gets blocked or the lymphoma makes a hole in your gut wall.

  • Pain in one or more of your bones, or a bony lump.

  • Headaches or seizures. These can be signs of lymphoma in your brain. This kind of lymphoma is common in people with AIDS. It can also make you confused and forgetful.

  • Painful sinuses, a runny or blocked nose, or bad nose bleeds. A lymphoma in your sinuses can also make your face swell and your eyes bulge. This kind of lymphoma is rare in the UK.

  • Difficulty breathing. This can be a sign of a lymphoma on the lining of your lungs. The lining fills up with fluid, so your lungs don't have room to fill with air.


lymph nodes

Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) are small, bean-shaped lumps that you can't usually see or feel easily. You have them in various parts of your body, such as your neck, armpits, and groin. Lymph nodes filter lymph and remove unwanted things from your body, such as bacteria and cancer cells.


Tonsilitis is when your tonsils become inflamed. It happens when your tonsils get infected with viruses or bacteria. Tonsilitis causes a number of symptoms, including a sore throat, pain when you swallow and a high temperature.

For more terms related to Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma


For references related to Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma click here.
Last Updated: August 06, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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