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Lymph node cancer

Cancer in lymph nodes can begin there or spread from other parts of the body, which is more common. Cancer that begins in the lymph nodes is called lymphoma (either Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin).

Common causes and risk factors

  • Both Hodgkin Disease and Non-Hodgkin Disease
    • Being male
    • HIV positive
  • Hodgkin Disease
    • Most common in early adulthood
  • Non-Hodgkin Disease
    • Being 60 or older
    • Exposure to chemicals such as benzene and certain herbicides
    • Having autoimmune diseases


These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions, so it is important to talk to your doctor if you experience any of them:

  • Both Hodgkin Disease and Non-Hodgkin Disease
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Fatigue
    • Night sweats
    • Shortness of breath
    • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hodgkin Disease
    • Itching
    • Loss of appetite
  • Non-Hodgkin Disease
    • Swollen abdomen
    • Chest pressure or pain


If your symptoms suggest you may have lymphoma, your doctor will obtain a thorough medical history. A physical exam is also vital in the diagnosis process. Swollen lymph nodes, although a symptom of lymphoma, are more often caused by an infection than cancer. Your doctor may order blood tests to determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are caused by a simple infection. If your doctor suggests lymphoma may be the cause of the symptoms, the following tests may be conducted:

  • Biopsy
  • Lab tests
  • Image tests


Your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options once you have been diagnosed and staged. Multiple treatments options exist and will be determined depending on the type of lymphoma and the stage.

The main types of treatment for lymphoma include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Monoclonal antibodies that attach to and destroy cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy to enhance the patient’s immune system to help kill or slow the growth of lymphoma cells.


The majority of lymphoma cases were caused by factors that could not have been prevented.