Hodgkin Lymphoma: Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma, also called Hodgkin disease, can have many different symptoms. These are the most common:

  • Swollen lymph nodes. These cause lumps under your skin. They’re often the first symptom you may notice. But swollen lymph nodes are most often caused by infection and are very common. Your healthcare provider may give you antibiotics to see if they make the nodes shrink. The most common areas for swelling are your neck, shoulders (below and above the collarbone), and underarms. Usually, the swollen nodes don’t cause pain, or hurt to touch. You may notice them when you wash, shower, or shave.

  • Tiredness or weakness. You may feel weak or have severe tiredness that doesn't get better with rest.

  • Cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain. These problems can be caused by enlarged lymph nodes in your chest that are pressing on your windpipe or trachea.

  • Itchy skin. You may notice that you are always scratching your skin. This may happen when you don’t seem to have a skin irritation. Or it may happen when you haven’t been exposed to a possible irritant, such as poison ivy or poison sumac. If this is the case, your healthcare provider should check you for Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Pain in your lymph nodes when drinking alcohol. You may have pain in your lymph nodes when you drink alcohol. Experts don’t know what causes this symptom, but it is linked with Hodgkin lymphoma.

These symptoms may also occur. They are known as B symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss. You may lose weight without trying.

  • Unexplained fever. You may have unexplained fevers over a long period of time with no obvious infection.

  • Night sweats. You may sweat to the point of soaking your clothes. These sweats often happen at night, but not all the time.

B symptoms can mean that the cancer is more likely to grow quickly. If you have B symptoms, you may have different kinds of treatment.

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it’s important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have cancer.