Lymphoma - Hodgkin: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2016

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People with Hodgkin lymphoma may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with Hodgkin lymphoma do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be another medical condition that is not cancer. Common symptoms caused by Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin area that does not go away within a few weeks

  • Unexplained fever that does not go away

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Night sweats, usually drenching

  • Pruritus, a generalized itching that may be severe

  • Fatigue

  • Pain in the lymph nodes triggered by drinking alcohol

If the lymph nodes in the chest are affected, they may press on structures in the lung and cause shortness of breath, cough, or chest discomfort.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

Use of symptoms in staging

If the diagnosis is Hodgkin lymphoma, the doctor may also use certain symptoms to help describe the disease in a process known as staging. Each stage may be subdivided into "A" and "B" categories.

  • A means that a person has not experienced B symptoms, which are listed below.

  • B means that a person has experienced 1 or more of the following symptoms:

    • Unexplained weight loss of more than 10% of original body weight during the 6 months before diagnosis

    • Unexplained fever, with temperatures above 100.4ºF (38ºC)

    • Drenching night sweats. Many patients with Hodgkin lymphoma say their nightclothes or the sheets on the bed were so wet they needed to be changed during the night. Sometimes, heavy sweating occurs during the day.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.