What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is not difficult to diagnose once a patient and doctor begin to look for signs of cancer. However, Lymphoma–especially non-Hodgkin lymphoma–can be something of a silent killer. Symptoms are frequently minor or nonexistent in the early stages and mimic the symptoms of common, non-threatening illnesses. Lymphoma symptoms are not specific to the disease. For this reason, it is very important that you tell your doctor during regular checkups about any symptoms that you might be experiencing.

Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma

Swollen Lymph Nodes: Lymphoma may cause swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, chest, abdomen and on the skin. Lymph nodes in the neck frequently swell in cases of a sinus infection or can be symptomatic of the flu. But if they persist for a long time or occur apart from other sicknesses they might be cause for concern. Lymph node swelling in the armpits or abdomen might be cause for more immediate concern. Lymphoma may also cause swelling in the chest area which may interfere with breathing. Lymphomas of the skin often appear as itchy red or purple lumps. Swollen lymph nodes are usually tender and painful to some degree. However, in the case of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lymph nodes might swell and become firm without any evident pain.

Chest Pain: Chest pain may occur if the lymphoma affects the thymus.

Unexplained Weight Loss: Sudden and unexpected weight loss of 10% or more of total body weight could be a cause for concern.

Recurring Fevers: Obviously, fever can be a sign of just about anything. When fever recurs for no apparent reason, especially in conjunction with other symptoms, it could be a sign of lymphoma.

Night Sweats: Night sweats will usually occur in conjunction with a fever.

Fatigue / Lack of Energy: This can be related to many things but in combination with other symptoms might be significant.

Rashes: Itchy skin (pruritis), rashes and lesions can be a sign of lymphoma, particularly cutaneous lymphoma.

Lower Back Pain: Obviously, most back pain occurs for reasons apart from lymphoma. However, expanding lymph nodes may press on nerves and cause lower back pain. This type of pain should be considered in the presence of other symptoms.

Sore Lymph Nodes After Drinking: Alchohol consumption puts stress on the lymphatic system which, along with the liver and kidneys, is part of the body's blood cleansing apparatus. If the lymph system is weakened by lymphoma, drinking may cause pain in the affected areas which means that lymph nodes may be sore after alcohol consumption.

Lymphoma Symptoms and Cat Scratch Fever

It should be noted that cat scratch disease can closely resemble lymphoma. It may come as a surprise to classic rock listeners to learn that "Cat Scratch Fever" is not just a Ted Nugent song but an actual illness more formally known as cat scratch disease or Bartonellosis. It is caused by a bacteria spread through contact with an infected cat and can result in lymph node infection. For more on cat scratch disease, please see this page from the CDC.

What Next?

If you have one or more of these symptoms, and feel that they are part of an overall pattern suggesting lymphoma, you need to consult a physician as soon as possible.

For most people, preventive care is the most important weapon in the fight against lymphoma. Lymphoma is often diagnosed during routine exams, x-rays, or even during pregnancy. By having regular checkups and monitoring your overall health, you increase your chances of early diagnosis and, therefore, successful treatment.

Photo: Pexels

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