How non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed
Usually, you begin by seeing your GP (family doctor) who will examine you and arrange for you to have tests. Your GP will refer you to hospital for the diagnosis to be made and for specialist advice and treatment.
At the hospital, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. They will also ask you about any health problems or recent illnesses you’ve had. You may have blood taken for testing and a chest x-ray to check your general health.
Taking a tissue sample (biopsy)
The most important test for diagnosing lymphoma is a biopsy. A sample of tissue is taken from the affected area so that cells in the tissue can be examined in the laboratory.
As many lymphomas begin in the lymph nodes, the most common place to take a biopsy from is an enlarged lymph node. This usually involves a small operation to remove all or part of the lymph node. It may be done under a local anaesthetic while you are awake (the area is numbed first) or under a general anaesthetic.
You may have to wait up to two weeks for the results of the biopsy. This is because diagnosing lymphoma is complicated and several tests need to be done on the biopsy. Sometimes this can delay the diagnosis. However, it’s really important to be sure whether a lump is lymphoma or not, and if it is lymphoma, what type it is.
Our video explains what to expect when you are having tests for cancer.