Diagnosis often starts when someone sees their doctor for certain symptoms like painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, collarbone, armpit, or groin. For some, swollen lymph nodes are found incidentally during a physical exam or chest x-ray.
There are several noncancerous reasons why lymph nodes maybe swollen. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and family and medical history. Lymph nodes throughout the body will be carefully examined. The doctor will check other areas of the body, such as the spleen and liver, for swelling. If there are no obvious reasons for these symptoms, a blood disorder may be suspected
Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
lymph node biopsy
is the only way to confirm a diagnosis. During the biopsy, all or part of a lymph node is removed. The tissue is examined under a microscope to look for specific types of cancer cells. The presence of these cells help determine the type of lymphoma present. Types of biopsies include:
—Most common. The entire lymph node is removed in an open procedure.
—A small part of the node is removed during an open procedure.
Fine needle aspiration
—A thin needle is inserted into the lymph node. Lymph tissue and fluid removed with a syringe.
—A larger, hollow needle is inserted into the lymph node. Lymph tissue and fluid are removed with a syringe.
Staging of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
If non-Hodgkin lymphoma is confirmed, the results from the biopsy and new tests will help determine the stage of the cancer. Staging is used to identify characteristics of the cancer. Staging as well as other information like age and overall health will help develop the prognosis and treatment plan.
Staging is determined by a number of factors. Tests will vary by individual, but may include:
Blood tests to look for abnormal numbers of certain blood cells, proteins, indications of cancer, and abnormal cells. The tests may also show changes in kidney or liver function.
Flow cytometry and cell marker tests to examine cells for specific characteristics, like proteins.
Imaging tests may be used to evaluate the extent of cancer and involved organs. Some tests use contrast material to highlight structures so images are more clear and detailed. Imaging tests may depend on suspected location of cancer based on symptoms, but may include:
Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
Accessed January 28, 2021.
Diagnosis. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed January 28, 2021.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Tests for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. Accessed January 28, 2021.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.