Lymphoma

Diagnosis

If lymphoma is suspected, the doctor asks about the person's medical history and performs a physical exam to help make a lymphoma diagnosis. The exam includes feeling to see if the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin are enlarged. In addition to checking general signs of health, the doctor may perform blood tests. The doctor may also order tests that produce pictures of the inside of the body. These may include:

  • X-rays - High-energy radiation used to take pictures of areas inside the body, such as the chest, bones, liver, and spleen.

  • CT (or CAT) scan - A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - Detailed pictures of areas inside the body produced with a powerful magnet linked to a computer.

  • Lymphangiogram - Pictures of the lymphatic system taken with x-rays after a special dye is injected to outline the lymph nodes and vessels.

A biopsy is needed to make a lymphoma diagnosis. 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 lymphoma is usually taken from a lymph node, but other tissues may be sampled as well. The pathologist studies the tissue and checks for Reed-Sternberg cells, large abnormal cells that are usually found with Hodgkin's disease. Sometimes, an operation called a laparotomy may be performed. During this operation, a surgeon cuts into the abdomen and removes samples of tissue to be checked under a microscope.

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