Early Symptoms of Lymphoma

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With any cancer, early detection is the best predictor of long-term survival, and lymphoma is no exception. The trickiest thing about lymphoma is that its warning signs are often very subtle in the earliest stages, meaning that a person has to be paying very close attention to even notice anything is wrong. Furthermore, many of the early symptoms of lymphoma also occur in other diseases, making a definitive diagnosis in the early stages more difficult, even for healthcare professionals.

The following symptoms may be an indication that you or someone you know has lymphoma. If you suspect this, you should schedule an appointment with a specialist as soon as possible.

  • Enlarged lymph nodes - The primary symptom of lymphoma is the painless swelling of nodes in the neck, groin, and armpits. It is often the only symptom to present, or be noticed. It can also result from a number of other diseases.
  • Unexplained weight loss - This can occur rapidly, totaling as many as ten to fifteen pounds lost over the course of a few months.
  • Night sweats - This may cause abrupt wakefulness in the middle of the night.
  • Itchiness and skin irritation - This sign results from the secretion of certain chemicals from affect lymph nodes.
  • Fatigue and weakness - Most cancers monopolize the body’s resources, leading to fatigue even with plenty of sleep.
  • Fever - A controversial sign, this specific fever, called a Pel-Ebstein fever, fluctuates from mild to severe. Some debate the validity (or even existence) of Pel-Ebstein fever as a sign.
  • Pain after drinking alcohol - This is a rare occurrence, present only in about three percent of cases, but is so specific to lymphoma that it is considered a pathognomonic sign of Hodgkin’s disease, meaning that this symptom alone is enough to provide a positive diagnosis. It typically sets in within minutes of consumption and is localized to the affected nodes.

Along with these symptoms, the presence of cancer cells in other organs of the body, like the liver, spleen, or stomach, can cause symptoms specific to those areas. For instance, cancer in the stomach can cause abdominal pain, while lymphoma that has spread to the brain can cause headaches.

As noted above, many of the early symptoms of lymphoma are non-specific and difficult to detect. A qualified oncologist or other professional should be consulted if you’re afraid that a particular sign might indicate lymphoma.

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