Lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer found in infants and children. The signs and symptoms of lymphoma in infants are distinct and should be examined by a doctor. There are two types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more likely to affect infants and younger children, while Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more likely in adolescents and adults. Both types of cancer affect the lymph system.
Enlarged Lymph Nodes
According to the American Cancer Society one of the primary symptoms of lymphoma in infants is enlargement of the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are located just under the skin in the underarms, both sides of the throat, the groin, and the abdomen. In some cases, swelling of those nodes may indicate any number of infections, but as lymphoma tumors grow and increase in size, the lymph nodes may also become swollen and enlarge.
If lymphoma is growing in an infant’s abdominal cavity, it may become swollen and tender to the touch. The American Cancer Society states that if the tumors are growing in the gastrointestinal system, the intestines can become blocked and problems with eating and eliminating wastes can occur. Nausea and vomiting can also occur as the gastric system is affected. That can be of special concern to infants because they may not get sufficient nourishment.
One of the places where lymphoma cancers can grow is in the chest. According to the American Cancer Society, as the tumors grow in the lymph glands located in the chest near the collar bone, they may press on the superior vena cava (SVC). The SVC is the major artery that runs from the heart and supplies blood to the arms and head. As the tumor presses against the SVC, it may restrict blood flow. As a result, infants can develop a red-blue tinge in their faces and arms may become swollen. SVC syndrome is extremely serious and should be treated immediately.
Another common symptom of lymphoma in infants is breathing problems. The American Cancer Society indicates that as lymphoma tumors grow in the lymph nodes of the throat, neck and upper chest, they may press against the trachea and lungs. That can create breathing difficulty for infants. Coughing, shortness of breath and problems inhaling can all be problems if lymphoma is growing in the thymus, which is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the throat near the thyroid gland.
There are also a number of generalized signs and symptoms of lymphoma in infants that parents should be aware of. Those include fevers, sweating, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. Although those symptoms can be attributed to many other illnesses in infants, when they occur in combination with any lymph node swelling, tenderness of the abdomen or problems breathing, a consultation with a pediatrician is in order, particularly if the infant also has swollen arms and/or has a face that appears reddish-blue.