Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell’s battle with cancer – first symptoms

Cancer Research UK provide details on lymphoma

Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell urged others to “take charge of their own health” as he shared the story of his own cancer diagnosis.

The former Dio and Whitesnake member discovered he had Hodgkin lymphoma after undergoing a biopsy in 2013.

However, Vivian – from Northern Ireland – had actually started experiencing symptoms at the end of 2011 when he suffered from a cough that wouldn’t go away.

Speaking to charity Lymphoma Action in 2013 he said: “Whenever I exerted myself, the cough got worse and this went on for three to four months.

“So I went to see my doctor in Los Angeles, where I live. He suggested I might just be taking some time to get over the infection.

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“But the cough got worse and by June 2012, when the band were about to start a US tour, I was coughing all the time. The more I pushed myself, the worse it got.

“When I was singing – and with Def Leppard there are lots of vocals – I found the cough was just atrocious and it was so draining.”

His doctor sent him for a CT scan which revealed he had enlarged lymph nodes, while blood tests showed he was extremely anaemic.

Vivian, now 60, recalled how he showed “all the classic symptoms” of the disease.

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“The oncologist was asking me questions and I was ticking all the boxes: ‘Do you have night sweats?’, ‘Yes, I’ve had them for the last 10 months’; ‘Are your legs itchy?’, ‘ Yes, how did you know?’” he said.

“I hadn’t been on the scales but I could tell I’d lost weight. My clothes were very loose and I certainly wasn’t dieting – I had all the classic symptoms of lymphoma.

“But they didn’t know for certain what my diagnosis was until they did a biopsy of a gland in my neck.

“They told me that it was Hodgkin lymphoma. I had heard the term ‘Hodgkin lymphoma’ and ‘non-Hodgkin lymphoma‘ before but did not know they were forms of cancer.”

A bone marrow biopsy revealed it was stage 2B lymphoma, which Vivian said meant it had been caught “pretty early”.

Vivian underwent chemotherapy and continued performing while doing so.

He also had stem-cell therapy in 2014 and has since been part of a trial for a drug called Keytruda, which he is given every month.

While this will not cure his cancer it has meant he is “not getting any worse”, he told the Belfast Telegraph in 2019.

What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body.

Due to the location of lymph nodes the most common symptoms are a painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin.

According to the NHS, it can also cause:

  • Night sweats
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • A persistent cough or feeling of breathlessness
  • Persistent itching of the skin all over the body.

If you experience any signs you should speak to your GP.

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