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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

About Childhood Lymphoma

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma, the third most common form of childhood cancer, generally begins in a lymph node. When a child has lymphoma, his or her lymphatic cells reproduce abnormally, interfering with the body's ability to fight infection. Because lymph tissue is found throughout the body, the cancer can start anywhere and spread to other tissues and organs. The cause of lymphoma is unknown; however, children born with conditions that affect the immune system are at a higher risk for the disease. 

The two forms of childhood lymphoma are:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
  • Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma tends to occur in young children and is more common in boys than girls. Hodgkin lymphoma is seen more often in adolescents and affects boys and girls equally.

What are the symptoms of lymphoma?

Signs and symptoms vary in patients. Some of the more common symptoms of pediatric lymphomas include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss/decreased appetite
  • Itchy skin
  • Frequent viral infections