Debra Wood, RN
Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms will appear as the disease progresses. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to cancer. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other, less serious conditions, like an infection. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.
The most common symptom is painless swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in the neck, collarbone, armpit, or groin are most affected, but swelling can occur in lymph nodes anywhere in the body. Swollen lymph nodes can be felt just under the skin and may change in size over the course of time. If the lymph nodes shrink, it does not mean the problem is gone. In general, if you have swelling that lasts longer than 2 weeks, it should be reported to your doctor.
Though rare, some people experience pain in the affected lymph nodes after consuming alcohol. Pain onset may occur immediately after drinking or several hours later. It is not known what causes this phenomenon.
Symptoms vary based on the area affected by swollen lymph nodes. Swelling may press on nearby blood vessels, nerves, or other structures. This compression may interfere with normal function or cause pain. Symptoms by locations include:
The lymphatic system has several functions that affect the entire body. Systemic symptoms may include:
Rarely, Hodgkin lymphoma can trigger other syndromes in the body, called paraneoplastic syndromes. It occurs when an abnormal immune system attacks healthy cells of the nervous system. It can result in difficulty with motor skills like walking or swallowing, and changes in mental state.
Later stages of Hodgkin lymphoma may cause problems with the liver, bile system (liver, gallbladder, and ducts), eyes, and blood vessels. Other problems that may develop include:
General information about adult Hodgkin lymphoma. National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
Updated October 27, 2015. Accessed February 29, 2016.
American Cancer Society website. Available at:
Accessed February 29, 2016.
Hodgkin lymphoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/hodgkin-lymphoma. Updated October 2012. Accessed February 29, 2016.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 8, 2016. Accessed February 29, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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