More About Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Risk Factors, Signs & Symptoms

Specific Infections

These infections increase your risk of developing NHL:

Infections that Weaken the Immune System

  • HIV Infection – The risk of developing certain types of NHL, such as Burkitt lymphoma, is higher in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. 

Infections that Affect Lymphocytes

  • Viruses, including the human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus (HTLV-1) and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), affect the DNA of lymphocytes. Infection with HTLV-1 increases a person’s risk of developing certain T-cell lymphomas. It is most common in parts of Asia and the Caribbean. Infection with EBV is a risk factor for Burkitt lymphoma and rare forms of NHL.

Infections that Activate the Immune System

  • Certain long-term infections may raise the risk of developing NHL by forcing the immune system to be constantly “turned on” and activated. As the body makes more lymphocytes to fight the infection, it increases the chances of genetic mutations that could lead to NHL. Infection with bacteria and viruses such as Helicobacter pylori, Campylobacter jejuni, and Hepatitis C are risk factors for NHL.

Body Weight

Keeping your body at a healthy weight and eating a good diet may reduce the risk of NHL. Some studies have suggested that being overweight or obese and eating a diet high in fats and meats may raise the risk of NHL.

Breast Implants

There have been rare cases of women with breast implants developing a type of NHL called anaplastic large cell lymphoma in scar tissue.

Signs & Symptoms

Many of the signs and symptoms of NHL are similar to those of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal Swelling - A tumor or large collection of fluid may cause the abdomen to become swollen and tender. Swelling may block the passage of feces. This causes abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Coughing and Breathing Issues - Certain types of lymphoma can develop into large tumors in the chest. If the tumor presses on the windpipe it causes trouble breathing.
  • Fatigue and Loss of Appetite - Sometimes the only signs of the disease are constant tiredness and not feeling hungry.
  • Fever - A high temperature may occur over several days or weeks.
  • Lumps - Painless lumps or swollen lymph nodes may develop in the neck, underarm or groin area.
  • Night Sweats - You may wake up drenched in sweat.
  • Weight Loss - You may lose weight without dieting or attempting weight loss. 
  • Central Nervous System Changes - NHL may cause severe headaches, changes in personality, difficulty moving parts of the body, or seizures.