Symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that can result in pain and swelling of the lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and more.

There are two groups of symptoms when it comes to Hodgkin lymphoma: B symptoms, which could be signs of either Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and general symptoms which could point to Hodgkin lymphoma as well as a number of other illnesses.

In some cases, the only symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is extreme fatigue. Since the symptoms are sometimes so subtle, the disease may go undetected.

Frequent Symptoms

Swollen lymph nodes are the most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma, and one of the most visible signs of the cancer. This swelling can occur on any lymph node in the body, including the neck, upper chest, armpit, abdomen, or groin area. And while one or more lymph node may be swollen, you may or may not experience pain with the swelling. Even if there is no pain, a swollen lymph node should still be a red flag that you need to make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Swollen lymph nodes are present in about two-thirds of those with Hodgkin lymphoma.

Other symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

B Symptoms

You may experience a specific set of symptoms called B symptoms if you have Hodgkin lymphoma, and these include:

  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss (more than 10% of your body weight over a six-month period)
  • Fever without infection (this can come and go over the course of a few weeks)

These symptoms are called B symptoms because they could be present in those with both Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These symptoms in particular will impact your healthcare provider's diagnosis (including what stage the cancer is), prognosis, and treatment plan.

Rare Symptoms

Depending on which lymph nodes are affected by Hodgkin lymphoma, some people may experience some more uncommon symptoms, such as:

  • Coughing, chest pain, and trouble breathing
  • Sensitivity and pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain or swelling or a feeling of increased fullness in your stomach

These symptoms will be present if lymph nodes in these areas, such as the chest as spleen are affected. In the case of drinking alcohol resulting in lymph node sensitivity, it may be due to the enlargement of blood vessels inside the lymph node which happens after drinking alcoholic beverages.


Two of the main complications patients with Hodgkin lymphoma may encounter are repeat or new malignancies and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Radiation treatment may be used for Hodgkin lymphoma. Because of the exposure to and type of radiation, leukemia may result anywhere from seven years to a decade after treatment, and there may be a higher risk of breast cancer, particularly for women who had Hodgkin lymphoma in the chest area and used radiation in that area for treatment.

Factors like age and dose of radiation may increase or decrease this risk, as research has found women under the age of 20 years old has the highest risk, followed by 21 to 30 years old, and 31 to 39 years old respectively.

Lung cancer may also be a related complication of Hodgkin lymphoma depending on the radiation dose to the affected area of the lung and particularly in those who are smokers. In one study, patients who reported smoking more than 10 packs in one year after Hodgkin lymphoma treatment were six times more likely to have an increased risk of lung cancer.

The primary non-malignant complication from Hodgkin lymphoma is cardiac disease, primarily coronary artery disease, which has been linked to radiation doses during treatment. Other radiation-related complications may include:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have Hodgkin lymphoma. However, if you do have the above symptoms and they persist without getting better over the course of a few days to a week, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider so they can get to the root of your symptoms, whether they be a sign of Hodgkin lymphoma or an infection. Trust your instincts and if you’re not feeling well, or you think you see a lump or bump around one of your lymph nodes, make sure to get it checked out immediately.

A Word From Verywell

Keeping the above symptoms in mind may worry you, but it’s important to note that these are also signs and symptoms for many infections, too. That’s why it’s vital to take note of how you’re feeling and if you do feel off to get to your healthcare provider as soon as possible, so they can run the appropriate tests and diagnose and treat your specific condition properly. Remember: You may have just a few or even one of the above symptoms, but anything that’s been persistent is worth making a visit and mentioning to your healthcare provider.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Hodgkin’s Disease.

  2. Van leeuwen FE. Chorus AM. Van den belt-dusebout AW. et al. Leukemia risk following Hodgkin's disease: relation to cumulative dose of alkylating agents, treatment with teniposide combinations, number of episodes of chemotherapy, and bone marrow damage. J Clin Oncol. 1994;12(5):1063-73. doi:10.1200/JCO.1994.12.5.1063

  3. Van leeuwen FE. Klokman WJ. Veer MB. et al. Long-term risk of second malignancy in survivors of Hodgkin's disease treated during adolescence or young adulthood. J Clin Oncol. 2000;18(3):487-97. doi:10.1200/JCO.2000.18.3.487

  4. Van leeuwen FE. Klokman WJ. Stovall M. et al. Roles of radiotherapy and smoking in lung cancer following Hodgkin's disease. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995;87(20):1530-7. doi:10.1093/jnci/87.20.1530

  5. Hull MC. Morris CG. Pepine CJ. Mendenhall NP. Valvular dysfunction and carotid, subclavian, and coronary artery disease in survivors of hodgkin lymphoma treated with radiation therapy. JAMA. 2003;290(21):2831-7. doi:10.1001/jama.290.21.2831

Additional Reading

By Colleen Travers
Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, parenting, and women’s lifestyle for various publications and brands.