Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms, risk factors, and FAQs

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, you should see your provider right away for an evaluation:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Feeling full after only a small amount of food
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • Severe or frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

In addition, some people with NHL can experience these B symptoms:

  • Fever without an infection, which can come and go over several days or weeks
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Weight loss without trying (at least 10% of body weight over 6 months)

Risk factors

We know that several factors can affect your chance of getting non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Age. Most cases occur in people age 60 or older.
  • Gender. Overall, the risk of NHL is higher in men than in women.
  • Race, ethnicity, and geography. In the United States, whites are more likely than African Americans and Asian Americans to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Worldwide, NHL is more common in developed countries, with the United States and Europe having some of the highest rates.
  • Family history. A first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling) with NHL means you are at increased risk.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and drugs. Benzene and certain herbicides and insecticides may be linked to an increased risk; some chemotherapy drugs used to treat other cancers may increase the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma many years later.
  • Radiation exposure.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), Sjogren (Sjögren) disease, celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy) and others have been linked with an increased risk.
  • Certain infections.
    • Infection with human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) increases a person’s risk of certain types of T-cell lymphoma.
    • The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an important risk factor for Burkitt lymphoma in some parts of Africa. In developed countries such as the United States, EBV is more often linked with lymphomas in people also infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
    • Human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8) can also infect lymphocytes, leading to a rare type of lymphoma called primary effusion lymphoma. HHV-8 infection is also linked to another cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, so another name for this virus is Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV).
  • Infections that weaken the immune system. HIV infection is a risk factor for developing certain types of NHL, such as primary CNS lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma, and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
  • Infections that cause chronic immune stimulation. Some long-term infections may increase a person’s risk of lymphoma by forcing their immune system to be constantly active.
  • Body weight and diet.
  • Breast implants. Some women with breast implants develop a type of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in their breast.

Questions and answers (FAQs)

Are there side effects for non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment?

Yes. These side effects depend on the type of treatment and the patient’s age when treated, and may include:

  • Second cancers
  • Solid tumors
  • Infertility
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Heart disease, such as heart attack
  • Lung problems, such as trouble breathing
  • Avascular necrosis of bone
  • Severe infection
  • Chronic fatigue

What is the survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

The 5-year combined relative survival rate is 63%.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Can non-Hodgkin lymphoma be cured?

Yes, depending on the type of NHL, early diagnosis and treatment, and the condition of the patient, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured.