Lymphoma Pain


Lymphoma is a malignant disease of the lymphatic system. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 75,000 adults will be diagnosed with lymphoma in 2009 and nearly and 21,000 people will die from the disease. The Mayo Clinic says the term lymphoma includes both Hodgkin's lymphoma (also referred to as Hodgkin’s disease) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. As both types of lymphoma progress they can cause painful symptoms.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma occurs when tumors develop from lymphocytes (type of white blood cell). Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is far more widespread than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Doctors are not sure what causes non-Hodgkin;s lymphoma. The Mayo Clinic says researchers think that the activation of certain abnormal genes may be linked to the development of lymphomas and all forms of cancer.


You may experience little if any pain in the early stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In fact the only symptoms may be painless and swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpit or groin.

As the disease advances, you may begin to feel pain in your abdominal area. Pain may be accompanied by bloating or swelling.

There may also be pain in the chest area, coughing and difficulty breathing.

Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma develops when cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally. These malignant cells may spread beyond the lymphatic system. Over time, Hodgkin's lymphoma hampers your body's ability to fend off infection. Exactly what causes Hodgkin's lymphoma remains a mystery.


Unlike the non-Hodgkin’s variety, Hodgkin’s lymphoma does not commonly cause pain in the abdominal area. However pain may develop in the chest that is accompanied by coughing and trouble breathing. You may experience chronic fatigue, chills, night sweats and fever.

You should contact your doctor if chest discomfort and other symptoms persist for more than two weeks or if they continually subside and return.

Pain Management

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) says the disease, treatment and possible complications can result in bone pain in addition to discomfort in the chest and abdomen.

For mild to moderate pain your doctor may recommend over-the–counter medications including acetaminophen (Tylenol), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID's), including aspirin and ibuprofen.

If pain becomes severe your doctor may prescribe more powerful oipoid pain relievers (morphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, oxycodone and codeine).

Alternative Pain Remedies

The LLS says sometimes lymphoma patients may benefit from hot or cold pack treatments, acupuncture and/or massage therapy to relieve the pain associated with their disease.

Certain relaxation and breathing techniques, music therapy and even hypnosis may also help to minimize discomfort. Other possible non-medicinal pain relief treatments include yoga and pool therapy.


Your age, general health and the type and stage of your lymphoma will be taken into account as you and doctor develop a treatment plan for both non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Among the standard treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation. The prognosis continues to improve for people with lymphoma as progress is made in early diagnosis and treatment.

The sooner a diagnosis is made, the greater your chance for a successful treatment of both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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