Diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
If you have swollen lymph nodes or another symptom that suggests
non-Hodgkin lymphoma, your doctor will try to find out what's causing the problem.
Your physician might inquire about your individual and family medical histories.
You may have some of the following exams and tests:
- Physical exam: Your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes in your neck, underarms,
and groin. Your doctor also checks for a swollen spleen or liver.
- Blood tests: To determine the quantity of white blood cells, the lab does a complete blood count.
The lab also checks for other cells and substances, such as lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
. Lymphoma may cause a high level of LDH.
- Chest x-rays: You may have x-rays to check for swollen lymph nodes orvarious illness symptoms in your chest.
- Biopsy: Only a biopsy can definitively determine whether a patient has lymphoma. A lymph node
may be completely removed by your doctor (excisional biopsy) or only partially removed (incisional biopsy).
Typically, a fine needle aspiration (FNA) cannot retrieve a significant enough sample for the pathologist
to make a lymphoma diagnosis. It is ideal to remove a lymph node completely. The pathologist examines the
tissue under a microscope to look for lymphoma cells.
Before getting a biopsy, you might wish to ask the doctor the following questions:
- How will the biopsy be done?
- Where will I have my biopsy?
- Will I have to do anything to prepare for it?
- How long will it take? Will I be awake? Will it hurt?
- Are there any risks? What are the chances of swelling, infection, or bleeding after the biopsy?
- How long will it take me to recover?
- How soon will I know the results? Who will explain them to me?
- Who will discuss the following steps with me if it turns out I have cancer?