Lymphoma or Fibromyalgia: Is it Possible to be Misdiagnosed?

Conditions are often mistaken for fibromyalgia when, in actuality, the problem is lymphoma. Read more of the following article to learn more about lymphoma and fibromyalgia. If you are concerned about your condition or believe to have received a misdiagnosis, please reach out to a doctor you trust.

What is Lymphoma?

According to the American Cancer Society, lymphoma is cancer that starts in cells within the body’s immune system. There are different types of lymphoma, which is why it is important to know what kind of lymphoma you have. Two main categories of lymphoma include Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma both involve cells that are a part of the body’s immune system. Because of different treatment options for lymphoma, your prognosis may vary.

Types of Lymphoma

Many types of lymphoma exist, as listed below:

Hodgkin Lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin disease): a main subtype of lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma begins in white blood cells. These white blood cells, or lymphocytes, are part of the body’s immune system. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 39 years old and is more common in early adulthood. However, with this in mind, both children and adults can develop cancer and the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma increases in late adulthood. Survival rates have improved due to advances in treatment.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (also known as NHL or just lymphoma): another main subtype of lymphoma. This cancer also starts in lymphocytes that are part of the body’s immune system. However, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma varies from Hodgkin’s lymphoma based on the specific type of lymphocyte involved. Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves the specific type of abnormal cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell. Although it is more common in adults than children, it can still occur.

Lymphoma of the Skin: cancer involving skin lymphomas or cutaneous lymphomas. As previously mentioned, lymphoma is cancer that starts in cells that are a part of the body’s immune system. However, rare lymphomas can start in the skin.

Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia: also known as WM or lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The cancer cells make large amounts of macroglobulin, an abnormal protein.


Around half of the blood cancers that occur annually are lymphomas or cancers of the lymphatic system. If treatment is necessary, there are several approaches that may involve the following:

  • Chemotherapy: is an aggressive treatment that kills cancer cells.
  • Stem-Cell Transplantation: is a method that can help restore damaged bone marrow.
  • Radiation Therapy: acts as a method for small areas of cancer.
  • Biological Therapy: is a drug treatment that attacks the cancer cells by inserting living microorganisms into the body.
  • Antibody Therapy: is a method that inserts synthetic antibodies into the bloodstream to combat the cancer’s antigens.
  • Radioimmunotherapy: delivers high-powered radioactive doses into cancerous B-cells and T-cells as a way to destroy them.
  • Steroids: helps treat lymphoma.
  • Surgery: removes organs after the lymphoma has spread.

Discuss treatment options with your doctor for a professional’s opinion.

Fibromyalgia/Lymphoma Misdiagnosis

Because fibromyalgia symptoms are similar to other illnesses, it is very possible to be misdiagnosed. A couple known symptoms that are similar to other illnesses include extreme fatigue and body pain. Symptoms like these may lead to misdiagnosis.

A study conducted in the United Kingdom focused on cancer in fibromyalgia patients. It reported that people who have body pain and have never been diagnosed with cancer are more at risk of getting cancer in the future. The study showed a higher incidence of cancer and reduced cancer survival for people with widespread pain. However, despite the findings of fibromyalgia patients, the study is far from conclusive. A step towards proper treatment and diagnosis is more research. With more work, there will be more information available to assess different conditions and symptoms.

If fibromyalgia patients are later diagnosed with cancer, they may find that there is an increase in pain and worsening symptoms. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment may be a struggle for the patient. Patients may find that depression or feelings of isolation increase with treatment for cancer due to the added medication. Although more medication is needed to treat cancer, it can cause more difficulty for the patient. As discussed previously, chemotherapy and radiation may be necessary for treatment.

In order to follow an appropriate approach towards treatment, it is important to be diagnosed correctly. Proper diagnosis is crucial for the healing process and treatment, especially when fibromyalgia or lymphoma is involved. Seek advice from a doctor you trust for proper diagnosis and steps for treatment.