Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The signs and symptoms of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) are non-specific.

However, healthcare providers may look for certain types of indicators when examining a person. Specifically, common symptoms such as fatigue and chest pain may alert your healthcare provider to a potential issue.

Moreover, if a person presents any "B symptoms," such as a high fever or night sweats, these signs may trigger further testing. The presence of lymphomas may also indicate a potential cancer diagnosis.

Nonetheless, the diagnosis of lymphoma requires testing and is not based on symptoms alone.

This article will highlight the symptoms associated with NHL.

Medical consultation between patient and doctor
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Frequent Symptoms

It is common for people with certain types of low-grade NHL to experience no symptoms at all, but people with NHL may often have painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin as an initial finding. A person can certainly have swollen lymph nodes and not have lymphoma. However, if you find a swollen node, it is important to get it evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma may include:

  • Painless, enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal discomfort or fullness
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, or cough
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Fever, night sweats, or unexplained weight loss

B Symptoms

Inflammatory symptoms, also called B symptoms, are associated with increased inflammatory markers in the plasma, causing:

  • Fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight loss of more than 10% over a six-month period
  • Night sweats

These symptoms help with understanding the staging and prognosis of NHL. It can indicate more aggressive cancer with worse outcomes after chemotherapy treatment. These symptoms can indicate an increased likelihood of malignancy from NHL.

Other Symptoms

Depending on the area of the body affected, the symptoms of NHL vary. NHL can arise virtually anywhere in the body, causing symptoms that involve less common sites or sites other than the lymph nodes.

Lymphomas of the Chest

If lymphatic tissue in the thymus (large gland by the heart) is affected or pressure on the trachea may cause:

Lymphomas of the Skin

Involvement of the skin is considered a more rare presentation of NHL. For example, primary cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCLs) are a group of NHLs that involve the skin. Symptoms generally include skin lesions.

Lymphomas of the Abdomen

About 45% to 65% of all cases of gastrointestinal (GI) lymphomas are associated with abdominal pain due to a mass or bowel obstruction, causing abdominal symptoms:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding (such as dark bowel movements)
  • Abdominal pain from swelling and fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Bloated or pregnant appearance

Lymphomas of the Brain

Primary CNS lymphomas involve the brain or central nervous system and can cause symptoms that vary depending on which parts of the nervous system are involved. Brain tumors may cause symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Vision changes
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures


Although there are many different types of NHL, each with the potential for differing complications, one of the more common complications of NHL is having a weak immune system or being immunocompromised. This can result from the lymphoma itself but also from various treatments for lymphoma. The result is that you may be more vulnerable to infections.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

When you feel like there has been a departure from what is normal for you, whether it is succumbing to frequent infections, feeling run down all the time, or noticing a new bump under your skin, be sure to be seen by a healthcare provider.

Remember that any of the above symptoms may be signs of many other illnesses. Therefore, it is important to be evaluated by a healthcare provider if you are experiencing anything abnormal for you, mentally or physically.


Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphocytes of the immune system. Depending on where tumors develop in the body, there can be dramatically different symptoms that present.

A Word From Verywell

Each person's journey in being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is different. With some forms of NHL, you may have no symptoms at all. Although painless lymph node swelling is a common initial finding, NHL can come to medical attention due to other signs, symptoms, or laboratory abnormalities.

Lymphoma is relatively uncommon, and, generally, if you have a swollen lymph node, lymphoma would not be the most likely diagnosis; however, a persistently swollen or enlarging lymph node should never be ignored.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What else can cause swollen lymph nodes?

    Lymph nodes can be swollen for a variety of reasons, both for benign or serious causes such as:

    • Infections (flu, common cold, mononucleosis, strep throat)
    • HIV
    • Cancer
    • Tonsillitis
  • Where is the pain with lymphoma?

    Pain with lymphoma typically occurs where there is a tumor, lesion, or swelling. The areas of involvement can be different for each person.

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. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: signs and symptoms.

  2. Sharma R, Cunningham D, Smith P, et al. Inflammatory (B) symptoms are independent predictors of myelosuppression from chemotherapy in Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) patients – analysis of data from a British National Lymphoma Investigation phase III trial comparing CHOP to PMitCEBOBMC Cancer. 2009;9:153. doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-153

  3. Cheson BD, Fisher RI, Barrington SF, et al. Recommendations for initial evaluation, staging, and response assessment of Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma: the Lugano classificationJ Clin Oncol. 2014;32(27):3059–3068. doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.54.8800

  4. Shirwaikar Thomas A, Schwartz M, Quigley E. Gastrointestinal lymphoma: the new mimicBMJ Open Gastroenterol. 2019;6(1):e000320. doi:10.1136/bmjgast-2019-000320

  5. Grulich AE, Vajdic CM, Cozen W. Altered immunity as a risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphomaCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. 2007;16(3):405-408. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.epi-06-1070

By Blyss Splane
Blyss Splane is a certified operating room nurse working as a freelance content writer and former travel nurse. She works as a freelance content writer for healthcare blogs when she's not spending time with her husband and dog.