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
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 specific types of cancer cells. The presence of these cells help determine the type of lymphoma present. Types of biopsies include:
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:
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is staged from I-IV:
For treatment purposes, non-Hodgkin lymphoma may also be grouped as:
Diagnosis. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/diagnosis. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003126-pdf.pdf. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116014/Non-Hodgkin-lymphoma-NHL. Updated May 5, 2016. Accesses October 6, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin-lymphomas. Updated October 2012. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Stages of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq#section/_158. Updated March 3, 2016. Accessed April 7, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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