The most common symptom of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpit. Although these swellings can ache, they are usually painless. The swelling is caused by B-lymphocytes multiplying uncontrollably and accumulating in the lymph nodes.
Some of the more general symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are described below:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
- Persistent fatigue
- Coughing and breathlessness
- Itchy skin
- Susceptibility to infection
Further symptom details
- If lymph nodes are swollen, it is usually the lymph nodes in the neck and shoulders that are enlarged. The lymph nodes of the chest may also be affected but these need to be assessed using imaging studies such as chest X-ray or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
- In around a third of patients, the spleen may be enlarged. The enlargement is rarely massive and the spleen may fluctuate in size throughout treatment.
- Around 5% of patients develop an enlarged liver.
- Involved lymph nodes can become painful after drinking alcohol, although this only occurs in around 2% to 3% of cases. The pain typically begins within minutes of drinking alcohol and is often reported to be either a dull ache or a sharp and stabbing pain.
- Some patients complain of non-specific back pain, although the lower back is the area most frequently affected.
- Some patients have abnormal cells in their bone marrow at diagnosis, which can disrupt levels of blood cells and lead to symptoms such as heavy periods, nosebleeds and blood spots under the skin.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc