There is no one symptom or group of symptoms that can guarantee the presence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In other words, all of the symptoms that can be caused by non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can be caused by other conditions as well. This is one of the reasons why tests for initial diagnosis are so important in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
A common symptom that patients report at first is a painless, swollen lymph node. The nodes most likely to be noticed are in the neck, the armpit and the groin.
However, very often, patients have no symptoms at the time when non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is diagnosed. The lymphoma is often first suspected from a physical examination by a family doctor, who may find an enlarged lymph node that the patient has not noticed, for example. Sometimes, the suspicion of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is first raised during an investigation, such as a blood test or a chest X-ray, that is being done for some other reason altogether.
In most cases, a family doctor will be unable to confirm a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Therefore, patients suspected of having non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are generally referred to a hospital to see specialist doctors. Often, it is necessary for a patient to see more than one person before the diagnosis can be confirmed. Patients usually attend an outpatients' clinic first of all.