Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a rare form of cancer accounting for only 0.5% of cancer diagnosis’ in 2017 (National Cancer Institute). This accounts to approximately 8,000 new cases a year, which is significantly lower compared to nearly 253,000 new breast cancer cases each year. However, those who do get Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are often younger, with nearly 60% being under the age of 45 at time of diagnosis.
As such, I have read alot about particuarly young cases similar to mine, where diagnosis took significant period of time. This is understandable in that a GP may go there whole career without treating or seeing someone with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However, as part of my journey I would like to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms and what to look out for, as with any cancer, the earlier it is caught the better.
Signs and Symptoms
- Painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin.
- Fever for no known reason.
- Drenching night sweats.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Itchy skin.
- Feeling very tired.
(source: National Cancer Institute – https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq#section/all )
The above is the formal definition of the signs and symptoms of the condition, but I thought it might be useful to share my experience in terms of signs and symptoms also. The following are the signs and symptoms that I experienced, and how they developed over time.
Personal Signs and Symptoms:
This isn’t just your standard tiredness, this is unremitting and doesn’t really improve with rest type of tiredness. Mine was caused by a form of anaemia. For months, I had anaemia of chronic disease. This was initially presumed to be iron deficiency anaemia, but 3 months worth of treatment with iron tablets made no difference to the anaemia and my fatigue continued to deteriorate. Along with this, it affected my concentration, emotional resilience and general mental functions.
It isn’t clear exactly when my symptoms start but the first consistent sign that something wasn’t right for me was a poor immune system. I would get every cough, cold, gastric illness, sinusitis going. I was barely getting over one thing before another thing hit. For me my particular vulnerable areas seemed to be my throat, sinuses, kidneys and gastric areas.
I can’t recall when I first noticed a lump in the side of my neck, but it was sometime ago. It was reviewed by medical professionals but never felt to be anything. It was not painful but it did grow. As time went on a second lump in my neck also appeared more at the base of my neck.
Chills and Night Sweats
The chills and night sweats are no ordinary chills and night sweats. For me, I would wake up in the middle of the night violently shivering for about an hour, followed by an hour of saturating sweating and feeling very hot. This was all in the absence of being unwell. Sometimes my temperature would be on the hot side but not always. This wouldn’t happen every night but I would generally have a run of a few nights where it would happen and then settle again. These episodes were like flare ups of the lymphoma and would leave me exhausted the next day, often with muscle and abdominal pain from the severe shivers.
Weight Loss and Loss of Appetite
My weight loss was very gradual to start off with. But in the few weeks around the time of my diagnosis the weight started to drop off much quicker. I lost about 10 kg in 9 month period, but the majority of this was in the last couple of months. This was because my spleen was pressing on my stomach, leaving me with no appetite or only able to eat small amounts at any time.