Signs and Symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma

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

Lump(s) under the skin

The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is a lump in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin, which is an enlarged lymph node. It doesn’t usually hurt, but 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 lymphoma is not the most common cause of lymph node swelling. Most enlarged lymph nodes, especially in children, are caused by an infection. Lymph nodes that grow because of infection are called reactive or hyperplastic nodes. These often hurt when they are touched. If an infection is the cause, the node should return to its normal size within a few weeks 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 are also important in determining the stage of Hodgkin lymphoma and a person’s prognosis (outlook). See Hodgkin Lymphoma Stages.

Other possible symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma 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 lymphoma 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 doesn’t mean you definitely have Hodgkin lymphoma. 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.

Bartlett NL, Foyil KV. Chapter 105: Hodgkin lymphoma. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Dorshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier: 2014.

Younes A, Carbone A, Johnson P, Dabaja B, Ansell S, Kuruvilla J. Chapter 102: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Last Medical Review: February 10, 2017 Last Revised: March 28, 2017

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