Lymphoma - Hodgkin: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with Hodgkin lymphoma may experience the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like by taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with Hodgkin lymphoma do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer.

Common symptoms or signs 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

  • Shortness of breath, cough, or chest discomfort may be caused if lymph nodes in the chest are affected

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 figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

Use of symptoms in staging Hodgkin lymphoma

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 does not have B symptoms, which are listed below.

  • 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 100.4°F (38°C).

    • Drenching night sweats. Many people 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. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative care" or "supportive care." It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the 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. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.