Early signs and symptoms of lymphoma
Lymphoma refers to the type of cancer that starts within the lymphatic system, which is generally responsible for the immune response of the body . It is broad term used for any cancer originating within these cells, and is broadly classified into Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma , whereas certain lymphomas are also known to originate in the skin and are then called skin lymphomas . Almost half of the blood cancers diagnosed annually are lymphomas, which can be now be managed due to medical advancements and newer treatment modalities. Like with any other type of cancer, an early detection of lymphomas favours a better prognosis and treatment, for which is important that you understand its earliest signs and symptoms.
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Lymphoma
Swollen lymph nodes
Lymph nodes contain lymph and are present throughout the body, but are most remarkably seen in the region of neck, armpits and the groin . In case of a lymphoma, these nodes will be most commonly swollen. Usually, this enlargement is not painful but can be somewhat discomforting at times. Over time, this swelling will get worse increasing in size and spreading around the area or it may even spread to distant sites.
Several infections cause an enlargement of lymph nodes, which resolves as soon as you are treated off it. A prolonged and severe swelling of these nodes is what is suggestive of a lymphoma .
Fever like symptoms
As lymph nodes continue to grow, you will feel a generalised weakness and malaise which will be accompanied by a fever lasting for several weeks.
Sweating, most commonly at the night, and fatigue will be experienced. Often, sweating is profuse enough to drench your shirt at night.
Loss of appetite is experienced, which can be so severe that you will notice a loss in body weight without any apparent reasons. At least 10% of your body weight will be lost over a span of 6 months.
When lymphoma spreads or starts in the thymus or the lymph nodes in the chest, you will experience difficulty in breathing or dyspnea accompanied by a pain in the chest. This pain may be felt behind the breastbone.
Pain will most likely be accompanied by an increase in pressure in the region of the chest and you may also notice a swelling in this area. This swelling will press against your trachea and cause you to cough quite often.
When the swelling is large enough, reddish blue or bluish discoloration of the hands, feet or the upper chest can be noted.
Itching and skin rash are some of the common signs of lymphoma, which may not have a definitive etiology.
In case of skin lymphoma, skin lesions will be more profusely seen in the form of macules (pimple like lesions), patches (flat lesions), plaques (thick and raised lesions spread over an area of skin) and nodules (large tumor-like bumps under the skin). These lesions can be itchy and scaly and vary in color from red to purple. Sometimes they may even ulcerate or bleed .
Lymphoma exhibits several other symptoms depending on the area that has been affected.
In case the abdomen is affected, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and a feeling of fullness after eating just some will be experienced.
Lymphomas in the brain cause headache, generalised weakness, changes in speech and vision. In some cases, seizures may be experienced and the person along with reduced cognition or personality changes .
The symptoms of skin cancer lymphoma and that of the chest have already been discussed.
It is imperative that you seek medical help if you notice any of these signs and symptoms, though, these are not essentially indicative of a lymphoma and may often be due to a less severe reason like an infection or a fever. This does not mean that these symptoms, especially, a prolonged swelling in the nodes can be ignored. Sometimes, lymphoma may not exhibit any symptoms and will just be manifested as a generalised weakness or loss in weight, which is why it is important that you take note of any slightest of the signs you notice.