Symptoms of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma

The signs or symptoms of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) may vary depending on the location of the cancer in the body. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as childhood HL.

A child with HL that starts in the abdomen may have pain in the abdomen, constipation or loss of appetite. A child with HL that starts in the chest may have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing or coughing.

The most common symptoms of childhood HL are:

  • swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, chest, abdomen, underarm or groin
  • swelling of the head, neck, chest, abdomen or arms
  • breathing problems
  • feeling of fullness in the abdomen or groin
  • shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • sore throat or trouble swallowing
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • itchy skin

B symptoms

Sometimes HL can cause generalized, or systemic, symptoms. This group of symptoms is referred to as B symptoms. They include unexplained fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. Unexplained fever has no obvious cause. The child’s temperature may be high for several days, or it may switch between normal and above normal for days or weeks. The night sweats are so heavy that the child’s bedding or clothes are wet and need to be changed. Unexplained weight loss is the loss of at least 10% of body weight over 6 months.

Superior vena cava syndrome

A serious symptom of HL is superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS). SVCS is life-threatening and needs to be treated right away. It occurs when the superior vena cava (the large vein that carries blood from the head, neck, arms and chest to the heart) is compressed by a tumour in the chest. The tumour may also compress the airway or the heart. Symptoms of SVCS include coughing, difficulty breathing, headache, dizziness, fainting and swelling or flushing (redness) of the neck, face and upper arms. Find out more about superior vena cava syndrome.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma . 2018:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Lymphoma - Hodgkin - Childhood. 2017:
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma. Children's Hospital Boston. Children's Hospital Boston. Boston, MA: Children's Hospital Boston;
  • de Alarcon, Pedro A. Pediatric Hodgkin Lymphoma Clinical Presentation. 2017:
  • Lash, Bradley W. Medscape Reference: Hodgkin Lymphoma Overview . 2018: Monday, January 14, 2019.
  • Lona Roll . Hodgkin Disease. Baggott C, Fochtman D, Foley GV & Patterson Kelly, K (eds.). Nursing Care of Children and Adolsecents with Cancer and Blood Disorders. 4th ed. APHON; 2011: 28:pp.. 1013-1022.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma in children. Macmillan Cancer Support. Macmillan Cancer Support. London, UK: Macmillan Cancer Support; 2008.
  • Metzger ML, Krasin MJ, Choi JK, Hudson MM . Hodgkin lymphoma. Pizzo PA & Poplack DG (eds.). Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer; 2016: 22:568-586.
  • National Cancer Institute. Childhood Hodgkin Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. 2018.
  • National Cancer Institute. Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version . 2018.
  • National Cancer Institute. Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version . 2018.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma. National Childhood Cancer Foundation & Children's Oncology Group. CureSearch. Bethesda, MD: 2011.

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