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What Are the Symptoms of Hodgkin Disease?

Hodgkin disease can have many different symptoms. These are the most common:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes. With Hodgkin disease, swollen lymph nodes that cause the skin to bulge out are often the first thing that people notice. However, enlarged lymph nodes usually result from infection and are very common in the general population. In most cases, swollen lymph nodes are not caused by Hodgkin disease. The most common areas for swelling are the neck, shoulders (below and above the collarbone), and underarms. Usually, the swollen nodes are painless and not tender to the touch. They may be noticed when the person washes, showers, or shaves. If the swelling happens in the neck, the lymph nodes can cause coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing. The body also has lymph nodes inside the chest, which are not visible from the outside even when swollen. This may cause coughing.

  • Unexplained fever. People with Hodgkin disease may have unexplained fevers over a long period of time with no obvious infection.

  • Fatigue and/or weakness. People with Hodgkin disease may feel weak or have severe tiredness that doesn't get better with rest.

  • Cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain. These problems can be caused by enlarged lymph nodes in the chest that are pressing on the windpipe (trachea).

  • Night sweats. People with Hodgkin disease may sweat to the point of soaking their clothes. These sweats usually happen at night, but not all the time.

  • Unexplained weight loss. People with Hodgkin disease may have unexplained or unwanted weight loss.

  • Itchy skin. If a person is always scratching his or her skin when there is no known irritation of the skin or exposure to potential irritants--poison ivy or poison sumac, for example--a doctor should check the person for Hodgkin disease.

  • Pain in the lymph nodes. Some people may experience pain in the involved lymph nodes when drinking alcohol. What causes this symptom is unknown, but it is associated with Hodgkin disease.

It is important to remember that all these symptoms can be caused by other medical problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor right away. Only a doctor can tell if a person has cancer.

People with Hodgkin disease who have any of these three symptoms: weight loss, fever, or night sweats are said to have B symptoms. These symptoms may influence the type of treatment people receive.

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