Lymphoma - Non-Hodgkin - Childhood: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

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

Children and teens with NHL may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with NHL do not have any of these changes. Or the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not cancer. The symptoms of NHL may vary depending on where the cancer starts and the organ(s) involved.

General symptoms may include:

  • Swelling or lumps in the lymph nodes located in the neck, underarms, abdomen, or groin. Swollen lymph nodes may join together to form a mass or tumor.

  • Unexplained fever

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Severe chills and night sweats, usually drenching

  • Extreme fatigue (tiredness)

Symptoms related to the tumor's specific location may include:

  • A swollen belly, caused by a large tumor in the abdomen

  • Painful urination and bowel movements, caused by fluid build-up and a tumor around the kidneys and intestines

  • Difficulty breathing, caused by a tumor in the chest (mediastinum) near the windpipe

A serious symptom of NHL is superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS). In SVCS, a tumor in the chest behind the breastbone blocks the flow of blood in the vein that carries blood from the head and arms to the heart. This causes the head and arms to swell. SVCS is life-threatening and requires emergency medical attention.

If you are concerned about any of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your child’s health care team. They will ask how long and how often your child has been having the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms is an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your child’s health care team about the symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is DiagnosisIt 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.