Signs and Symptoms of Hodgkin Disease

You or your child can have Hodgkin disease and feel perfectly well. But Hodgkin disease can often cause symptoms.

Lump(s) under the skin

The most common symptom of Hodgkin disease is a lump in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin, which is an enlarged lymph node. Although it doesn’t usually hurt, the area may become painful after drinking alcohol. The lump might grow larger over time, or new lumps might appear near it (or even in other parts of the body).

But Hodgkin disease is not the most common cause of lymph node swelling. Most enlarged lymph nodes, especially in children, are caused by an infection. If this is the cause, the node should return to its normal size a couple of weeks or months after the infection goes away.

Other cancers can also cause swollen lymph nodes. If you have an enlarged lymph node, especially if you haven’t had a recent infection, it’s best to see your doctor so that the cause can be found and treated without delay, if needed.

General (non-specific) symptoms

Some people with Hodgkin disease have what are known as B symptoms:

  • Fever (which can come and go over several days or weeks) without an infection
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Weight loss without trying (at least 10% of body weight over 6 months)

These symptoms can help find Hodgkin disease, but they are also important in determining the disease’s stage and prognosis (outlook) (see “How is Hodgkin disease staged?”).

Other possible symptoms of Hodgkin disease include:

  • Itching skin
  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of appetite

Sometimes the only symptom might be feeling tired all the time.

Cough, trouble breathing, chest pain

If Hodgkin disease affects lymph nodes inside the chest, the swelling of these nodes might press on the windpipe (trachea) and make you cough or even have trouble breathing, especially when lying down. Some people might have pain behind the breast bone.

Having one or more of the symptoms above does not mean you definitely have Hodgkin disease. In fact, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions, such as an infection. Still, if you or your child has any of these symptoms, have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: July 10, 2014 Last Revised: May 23, 2016

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