Common Lymphoma Symptoms, as Experienced by Real Patients

Common Lymphoma Symptoms,
Described by Real Patients

Lymphoma comes in many different forms, and can cause a wide variety of symptoms in patients prior to diagnosis.

Below are some of the first signs of both Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that real patients experienced before they sought medical advice.

First signs and symptoms of lymphoma:

  • Lump or swelling in neck, throat, or jaw
  • Fatigue
  • Occasional dry coughing
  • Shortness of breath / difficulty breathing
  • Fever, night sweats and/or chills
  • Itching (particularly in the legs)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach / abdominal pain
  • Body aches

In addition to the above more common lymphoma symptoms, some patients have also experienced the following: Difficulty swallowing, a bump on the sternum, swelling in the legs, bloating, a rash on neck and chest, and others

»MORE PATIENT STORIES: Hodgkin Lymphoma stories | Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma stories

How patients described their first signs of lymphoma

It’s common for pre-diagnosis lymphoma patients to experience a number of symptoms at the same time, rather than a single one. Many are interpreted at first as symptoms of a cold, flu, or general fatigue.

Read on for highlights from lymphoma patient stories of how they first experienced signs that something was wrong.

Lump or swelling in neck, throat, or jaw

“I felt a lump in the back of my neck. I thought this was a muscle knot and kept trying to rub it out. It got bigger. I was told it was probably an infection that had caused a lymph node to enlarge and nothing to worry about. However, it didn’t go away. About three weeks later I met with another doctor, as I discovered another lump.”

– Tony Donk | Read more →

“I noticed a growth on my neck. Usually, if there’s swelling from a viral infection, you see symmetrical swelling, so just having it on the right side only was a little alarming.”

– Charlie Brickham | Read more →

“I really didn’t have any symptoms except for the one lymph node on my right side that was just getting bigger and bigger as time went on. It just wasn’t going down. As soon as I started to feel other ones lower down my neck, it just didn’t seem right.”

– Danielle Doyle | Read more →

“I noticed I had swollen lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. My mom is a nurse practitioner, so I showed her when I was visiting one weekend. I asked if we could go get it checked out. I asked her what it could be, and she said I could have some type of infection or worst case scenario that it could be some kind of cancer.”

– Tylere Presley | Read more →

“I thought I had slept weird. I was just feeling some discomfort in my neck. I never thought it would be cancerous. I told my parents I had this thing on my neck, and they said we should get it checked out.”

– Logan Agee | Read more →

“When I got out of the shower in the evening, I noticed a lump in my throat that I did not see the day before. I pushed on it and it felt pretty hard, but it did not hurt. My heart sank a bit because I instinctively felt that something was very wrong. My first thought was thyroid cancer. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was not good.”

– Donna Sadeghi | Read more →


“I was feeling lethargic and sleepy for weeks, but attributed it to my most recent work schedule. For about a week, I would wake up with a swollen jaw and neck. As the day went on, the swelling would subside so I thought I was just ‘bloated.’ It wasn’t until I woke up one morning and had a very deep cough that came from a place I’d never experienced.”

– Stephanie Chuang | Read more →

“I started to notice symptoms of achiness and I was getting very tired, but at this point, my workload had picked up. I had taken a promotion. I was working extra hard. It was extra demanding, and on top of that, it’s the holiday season and we were going out. We had office parties. I had dinner parties. So I was tired. I kind of chalked all of this up to either I just have a lingering virus, because I would get a little achy in the afternoon, then I would have a good sleep, and then I’d wake up and I’d feel fine.”

– CC Webster | Read more →

“I had been going to the doctor for severe fatigue for several years prior to diagnosis. We didn’t know what it was. Thoughts went through our heads that it was possibly chronic fatigue syndrome. Several doctors told me I needed to get more exercise, and that would solve the fatigue problem.”

– Lacey Buchorn | Read more →


“I started showing “signs” about two weeks prior to giving birth with just a bad cough and a little trouble breathing that I thought was caused by being pregnant.”

– Keyla Scrogham | Read more →

“I had been coughing for the better part of a year, sometimes worse than others. That was really my only sign. I’d been active, I’d been living my life normally, fully. But I was coughing a lot. Then I was going to the health center at school or whatever was available and they would always just say, ‘Oh, maybe it’s allergies, maybe you’re fine healthwise.’”

– Stephanie Ou | Read more →

“For several months I had shortness of breath and a dry cough. I dismissed these signs because I believed it was a cold or a flu.”

– Fabiola Lopez | Read more →

Shortness of breath / difficulty breathing

“I really just couldn’t breathe. That was the only symptom I really had. I was going to the gym like 5 or 6 days out of the week…I took it a little easier, and it wasn’t getting any better. Then it got to the point where it was just sporadic. I would be driving in the car, and I’d feel like an elephant was sitting on my chest.”

– Madi Jones | Read more →

“I had set an appointment to have some of my adenoid tissue removed as it was causing that blockage in my nose that was affecting my breathing. I had an incredible hard time breathing through my nose (near 90 to 100%) blockage which led me to seek the ear, nose, throat (ENT) doctor to take a look.”

– Helicon Kuan | Read more →

“All of a sudden it felt like there was a vacuum in my chest. It was hard to breathe, and it was cramping. I didn’t want to cause a fuss, so I pushed through it for the movie. I was drinking water and taking shallow breaths. From them on for about a week or so, I just struggled.”

– Kayla Tremblett | Read more →

Fever, night sweats and/or chills

“I had symptoms for probably more than a year before I found out what it was…I thought the night sweats were perimenopause. I had extreme itching to the point where I would bruise my legs…I had a constant, persistent cough as well. I thought it was allergies. I had an excuse for everything.”

– Katee Petro | Read more →

“I was getting lots of fevers, inflammation and stuff like that. The initial symptoms were the weight loss and loss of appetite though.”

– Brianna Banachoski | Read more →


“My first symptoms were itchy skin and an enlarged lymph node. My belly itched, my arms itched, everything itched so much it motivated me to go to a dermatologist’s office. It was kind of unbearable and really distracted me at work.”

– Lauren Chiarello | Read more →

“The first time I saw the doctor was a year ago and it was for the itching. I was only showing him my legs to see what was wrong. I was prescribed creams to try out but they didn’t work out. I saw the doctor a second time and we tried other creams and they didn’t work. [Then] I saw a dermatologist. She ended up referring me to an oncologists when I got some scans back because there was something showing up.”

– Jade Blouin | Read more →

More lymphoma symptoms stories

“My appetite waned and I started to lose weight, but didn’t take any action. Then the lymph nodes along my neck, throat, and clavicle area swelled up suddenly. “

– Arielle Rosen | Read more →

“I had noticed for a couple of months that I had this bump right on my sternum. That was it. It felt like a bone was popping out but nothing else of concern. I didn’t have any other symptoms. I was going to the gym a couple times a week, and I was living life normally.”

– Patrick Mulick | Read more →

“I had started having chest pain. It was early in the Fall of the year before my diagnosis the next January. I went to get it checked out, and they told me I had a pulled muscle. I still had the chest pain, so I went back in December. They said I had walking pneumonia. They didn’t really think anything of it. In January, it hurt to eat or drink anything, so I went to the ER. That’s when they found a mass.”

– Crystal Zunino | Read more →

“I was in denial for a long time. I had been having trouble buttoning my pants for a while. I started wearing flowy clothes…someone asked me if I was pregnant. There was clearly something wrong, but I also had a hernia, so I just thought it was related to that…I was pretty low-energy for a while too. When I’d work out, I would get tired faster than usual. [One night] I had a really bad stomach ache, and I went to be at 6:30pm because I was just too tired. The pain became so intense over the course of the night, and my husband was asking if I wanted to go to the ER. I kept saying, “No, it’s just a hernia. That’s silly.” Finally, at about 1:30 in the morning, I wanted to go because I was in too much pain.”

– Rachel Posell | Read more →

“I was about to go to bed. I was struck with this extreme, sudden lower back pain. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the back. It was this crazy pulsating pain. It radiated through my hips and down my legs. It was so scary because it went from 0 to 100. I tried to switch my position to see if that could fix it because I was so confused. Nothing helped. I was so shocked. I tried to stand up, and I couldn’t because the pain was so unbearable.”

– Lia Sartorio | Read more →

What to do if you’re experiencing symptoms

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above signs, don’t panic. Many ailments other than cancer can cause similar symptoms, so you shouldn’t immediately assume the worst. However, it’s also best not to wait if you truly feel something is wrong with your body. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and the right course of action for your health.

»MORE: Being your own health advocate