The term lymphoma refers to a group of cancers affecting the cells of the lymphatic system – the system that carries white blood cells (lymphocytes) and lymph fluid throughout the body. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, and its purpose is to fight infections by filtering bacteria, viruses, and other impurities from the body. Lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes begin to grow and multiply in an uncontrollable manner. There are various symptoms of lymphoma including swelling of the lymph nodes, rapid weight loss, a lack of energy, and a sudden loss of appetite. These symptoms are non-specific and are often very similar to those caused by conditions other than cancer such as the flu. Under such circumstances, the symptoms would not persist for an extended period of time.
What are the Symptoms of Lymphoma?
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Swelling of the lymph nodes – This is often the first symptom and is one of the most common symptoms of lymphoma. The lymph nodes are small collections of lymph tissue found throughout the body. Enlarged lymph nodes usually appear as painless swellings in the neck, armpits, abdomen or groin area. These lumps are often noticed during a routine physical examination or while bathing or changing. Enlarged lymph nodes do not always point to lymphoma so check with a doctor just to be sure.
- Sudden weight loss – Rapid and abrupt weight loss, for an unknown reason, is always a sign that there is something wrong. Though another explanation is possible, it can be caused by the presence of lymphoma in the body. Persons with lymphoma usually lose as many as fifteen pounds within a month or two.
- Lack of energy – The more cancer cells grow, the more they use up the nutrients that the body should be getting thus leaving a limited amount of nutrients for the body. This generally results in a lack of energy and a feeling of weakness.
- Sudden loss of appetite – As the cancer spreads throughout the body, the tumors grow resulting in a loss of appetite.
- Itchiness – The secretion of chemicals from the lymphoma cells causes itching all over the body.
- Fevers – lymphomas affect the immune system, and a fever that is related to node swelling is a normal occurrence once there is an infection. This is why lymphoma is often initially mistaken for an infection.
- Excessive night sweats – Waking up at night drenched in sweat for no apparent reason.
There are other symptoms of lymphoma such as pain in the area where the lymphoma is present- for example, a lymphoma in the brain can cause headaches. Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and red patches on the skin can also point to lymphoma. Although the symptoms of lymphoma are common to other illnesses, one has reason to be concerned when the symptoms persist and are not caused by an infection or another disease.