Lymphoma - Non-Hodgkin - Childhood: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

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 with NHL may experience the following symptoms or signs. A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can identify and describe, such as fatigue, nausea, or pain. A sign is something that other people can identify and measure, such as a fever, rash, or an elevated pulse. Together, signs and symptoms can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, children with NHL do not have any of the signs and symptoms described below. Or the cause of a symptom or sign may be a 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 location may include:

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

  • Painful urination and bowel movements, caused by fluid buildup 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 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.