Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

If the symptoms suggest that possibility of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, some of the following exams and tests may be done:
  • Physical exam: Your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes in your neck, underarms, and groin
  • Blood tests: The lab does a complete blood count to check the number of white blood cells. The lab also checks for other cells and substances, such as lactate dehydrogenase (LDH).
  • Chest x-rays: You may have x-rays to check for swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease in your chest.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose lymphoma. Your doctor may remove an entire lymph node (excisional biopsy) or only part of a lymph node (incisional biopsy).

Types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

There are many types of lymphoma. The most common types are diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma. Lymphomas may be grouped by how quickly they are likely to grow:
  • Indolent (also called low-grade) lymphomas grow slowly. They tend to cause few symptoms.
  • Aggressive (also called intermediate-grade and high-grade) lymphomas grow and spread more quickly. They tend to cause severe symptoms. Over time, many indolent lymphomas become aggressive lymphomas.


Staging may involve one or more of the following tests:
  • Bone-Marrow Biopsy
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • Spinal tap
  • PET scan
The stages of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are as follows:
  • Stage I: The lymphoma cells are in one lymph node group (such as in the neck or underarm). Or, if the abnormal cells are not in the lymph nodes, they are in only one part of a tissue or organ (such as the lung, but not the liver or bone marrow).
  • Stage II: The lymphoma cells are in at least two lymph node groups on the same side of (either above or below) the diaphragm. (See the picture of the diaphragm.) Or, the lymphoma cells are in one part of an organ and the lymph nodes near that organ (on the same side of the diaphragm). There may be lymphoma cells in other lymph node groups on the same side of the diaphragm.
  • Stage III: The lymphoma is in lymph nodes above and below the diaphragm. It also may be found in one part of a tissue or an organ near these lymph node groups.
  • Stage IV: Lymphoma cells are found in several parts of one or more organs or tissues (in addition to the lymph nodes). Or, it is in the liver, blood, or bone marrow.
  • Recurrent: The disease returns after treatment.
In addition to these stage numbers, your doctor may also describe the stage as A or B: A: You have not had weight loss, drenching night sweats, or fevers. B: You have had weight loss, drenching night sweats, or fevers.