What are the signs and symptoms of follicular lymphoma?

Although individuals experience symptoms differently, those with follicular lymphoma often will notice an area of painless swelling on the body, such as on the neck, underarm, or groin. Since follicular lymphoma is slow-growing, immediate treatment is not always needed. If you don't appear to have symptoms, you may not be treated right away. This approach is called “active surveillance” or “watchful waiting.” When your doctor chooses this approach, he or she will closely monitor your condition.

You can take an active role in keeping an eye on your follicular lymphoma by paying careful attention to changes to your health and communicating symptoms to your doctor.

Possible symptoms you should watch for include (but are not limited to):

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin, which may be painless
  • Fever, fatigue, and night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Severe or frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Numbness or tingling in feet and/or hands
  • Headaches and/or blurry vision

Your doctor may look for:

  • Swelling in your lymph nodes, liver, or spleen
  • An increase in the number of abnormal white blood cells
  • A decrease in the number of normal blood cells

Symptoms of follicular lymphoma may be seen in other conditions as well. Only your doctor will be able to tell if your symptoms are related to follicular lymphoma.

Understanding medical tests for follicular lymphoma

Follicular lymphoma cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone. You are not often the first to notice your follicular lymphoma. It is usually detected by routine check-ups or blood work for other health issues.

If your doctor suspects follicular lymphoma after reviewing your signs and symptoms, he or she will order tests to confirm the diagnosis and to determine how advanced the disease is.

Common tests include:

  • Routine tests such as physical exam, blood cell counts, and lymph node or bone marrow biopsy
  • Flow cytometry—a sample of your cells is examined using a laser beam and a computer to find out the type of cancer and the number of cells involved
  • Imaging tests such as PET-CT or CT scans—these scans produce images of the inside of your body that help show the location of follicular lymphoma