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Diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma
by Debra Wood, RN
Diagnosis often starts when someone sees their doctor for specific symptoms, and also has painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, collarbone, armpit, or groin. For some, swollen lymph nodes in the chest are found incidentally during a 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 Hodgkin Lymphoma
A 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 a specific cancer cells. The presence of these cells indicate Hodgkin lymphoma. Types of biopsies include:
Staging of Hodgkin Lymphoma
If 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:
Stages of Hodgkin Lymphoma
Hodgkin lymphoma is staged from 0-4:
For treatment purposes Hodgkin lymphoma may also be grouped as:
Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Updated April 12, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Diagnosis. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at:
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Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/hodgkin-lymphoma. Updated October 2012. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114957/Hodgkin-lymphoma-HL. Updated November 22, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Tests for Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkin-lymphoma/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. Updated March 28, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/3/2016
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