Symptoms of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma

Symptoms may vary depending on the type of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and where it develops in the body. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as childhood HL.

The most common symptom of most types of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma is swollen, or enlarged, lymph nodes in the neck or above the collar bone. Lymph nodes under the arms, in the groin, in the abdomen or in the pelvis may also be swollen. The swollen lymph nodes are usually painless.

Other symptoms of most types of childhood HL include:

  • poor appetite
  • malaise, which is a general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • fatigue
  • lack of energy, or lethargy
  • itchy skin, or pruritus

Some of the symptoms of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma affect the whole body. These symptoms are called B, or generalized, symptoms. B symptoms include:

  • fever over 38°C that has no obvious cause, may be high for several days and may switch between normal and below normal for days or weeks
  • night sweats that are so heavy that the child’s clothes or bedding are wet and may need to be changed
  • weight loss of at least 10% of the child’s body weight over 6 months

These B symptoms are usually linked with more widespread disease. Doctors will consider whether or not these B symptoms are present when they plan treatment.

Symptoms by location of the disease

Childhood HL can cause other signs and symptoms depending on where the tumours develop.

Childhood HL in the chest can cause:

  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • chest pain
  • superior vena cava syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that include coughing, difficulty breathing, headache, dizziness, fainting and swelling or flushing of the neck, face and upper arms

Childhood HL in the abdomen can cause:

  • indigestion
  • abdominal tenderness or pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • lump or swelling in the abdomen
  • swollen liver or spleen
  • jaundice, which is a condition that makes the skin and whites of the eyes yellow and the urine dark yellow

Childhood HL in the upper airway can cause sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

Childhood HL in the groin can cause swelling of the feet and legs.

Childhood HL in the bone marrow can cause:

  • infections that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • bleeding or easy bruising
  • low blood cell counts