Symptoms & Signs

of Hodgkin Lymphoma

People with Hodgkin lymphoma most often first suspect a problem when they notice an enlarged lymph node.  This typically manifests as a lump or swelling in the neck, armpit or groin region.  Many patients have no additional symptoms. The most common symptoms caused by Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Persistent painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin.
  • Unexplained fever that does not go away
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the lymph nodes triggered by drinking alcohol
  • Shortness of breath, cough, or chest discomfort may be caused if lymph nodes in the chest are affected.
  • A generalized itching that may be severe


Hodgkin lymphoma begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic change (mutation) that causes them to turn into abnormal cells.

Risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer.  Risk factors can influence the development of cancer but most do not directly cause cancer. Many individuals with risk factors will never develop cancer and others with no known risk factors will.  Hodgkin lymphoma typically develops sporadically, which means for no known reason. Some cancers however are more likely to develop in individuals with certain risk factors that increase an individual’s chance of developing cancer.

The following factors may raise a person’s risk for developing Hodgkin lymphoma1:

  • People between the ages of 15 and 40 and older than 55 are more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Men are slightly more likely than women to develop Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Family history. Brothers and sisters of people with Hodgkin lymphoma have a higher chance of developing the disease although the increase in risk is small.
  • Virus exposure. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes infectious mononucleosis, often called “mono.” Nearly all adult Americans and many others around the world have an EBV infection. About 20% to 25% of people with cHL in the United States have lymphoma cells that test positive for EBV. Although a person’s immune system response to an infection with EBV may be important in the development of Hodgkin lymphoma, doctors still don’t understand why, when so many people have been infected with EBV, relatively very few people ever develop Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Individuals with HIV have a higher risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.

Next: Diagnosis & Tests for Hodgkin Lymphoma


1 American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2017. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2017. Last accessed October 13, 2017.