Signs & Symptoms of Lymphoma in Children

Accurately diagnosing lymphoma in children is doubly challenging. Not only are most signs and symptoms of lymphoma in children very subtle and hard to detect, but they also appear to resemble the symptoms of a host of other, non-cancerous childhood diseases, like mono or the flu.

 

In general, the signs and symptoms of lymphoma in children are similar to those in adults, and may include the following:

  • 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, and occurs most often in the neck, armpit, and groin regions. It can also result from a number of other childhood 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.

It is the itchiness symptom that can mark a lymphoma as being of the Hodgkin's variety. This may grow to include a body-wide irritation that can lead some children to scratch themselves bloody in an effort to end the itching.

Definitive Testing

Because of the similarity between lymphoma symptoms and those of influenza and mononucleosis, many doctors now will only test for lymphoma if the symptoms persist for more than two weeks or if they appear and subside and reappear. The general rule is to eliminate all other potential causes of the symptoms before testing for lymphoma.

Testing swollen lymph nodes can be done with a biopsy involving the partial or complete removal of the tumor. This could be a relatively straightforward procedure using only local anesthetic if the node was near the skin's surface, or a more involved surgery for deeper nodes. an MRI or ultrasound scan can help pinpoint the best candidate for biopsy, and after removal, the tumor will be sent off for analysis.

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