Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

If non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is suspected, the doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam, which will include feeling the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm or groin and feeling to see if the liver or spleen is enlarged. In addition to checking general signs of health, the doctor may order blood tests.

The doctor also may recommend tests that produce pictures of the inside of the body, including:

  • X-Rays — High-energy radiation is used to take pictures of areas inside the body, such as the chest, bones, liver and spleen.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan — A CT scan uses a thin X-Ray beam that rotates around the area being examined. A computer processes data to construct a three-dimensional, cross-sectional image.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — An MRI provides detailed pictures of areas inside the body, using a powerful magnet linked to a computer.
  • PET Scan — A PET scan usees a radioisotope of glucose, a sugar molecule, to determine if lymphoma is present in enlarged lymph nodes.

The diagnosis also depends on a biopsy, during which a surgeon removes a sample of tissue so that a pathologist can examine it under a microscope to check for cancer cells. A biopsy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is usually taken from a lymph node, but other tissues may be sampled as well.

Sometimes, an operation called a laparotomy may be performed. During this operation, a surgeon cuts into the abdomen and removes samples of lymph tissue to be checked under a microscope.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.