Having tests for NHL
Even though you might have some of the symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, remember there might be other causes for your symptoms. It’s important to get them checked out if you are worried, though. There are some tests you might be given by your GP or at the hospital. The tests will help the doctors see whether you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Visiting your GP
Your GP will examine you and may arrange for tests such as blood tests. There may be a number of reasons why you're feeling unwell, so it can be difficult to diagnose the cause straightaway. If they think you have NHL, or they can't find the cause for your symptoms, they’ll refer you to a specialist at the hospital.
At the hospital
You may be referred to a doctor specialising in lymphomas, or you may see other specialist doctors first. You'll probably see a lot of doctors.
The hospital doctor will examine you and arrange for more tests. The main test to find out the cause of swollen lymph nodes is to take a sample of tissue. This is called a biopsy. The biopsy may involve a small operation to remove a whole lymph node (excision biopsy). Or you might have a smaller test where the doctor uses a hollow needle to take small samples from the swollen node (trucut biopsy).
Biopsies can be done with a local anaesthetic (you’re awake but you don’t feel anything), or a general anaesthetic (you’re asleep). Your doctor will discuss this with you to agree the best way to do it.
If the biopsy shows you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you’ll have more tests to check for lymphoma in other parts of your body. The tests may include:
You might not have all of these tests. Your doctor will tell you which ones you need.
You might also have tests to check your general health. These might include:
I think it's important when you're first diagnosed to take some time out to talk it over with friends and family and people who are close to you.
This may seem like a lot of tests, but they help your doctors decide the right treatments for you and how much treatment you will need.
Waiting for test results can be a scary time, but understanding a little about them - what will happen, how you'll feel and when you'll get the results - can help you cope. Thinking about how you feel and getting support from family, friends, or your specialist nurse or doctor can make it a bit easier. You could also talk to a cancer support specialist
on our free helpline.
We also have information about:
If you’re looking for information about non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people of all ages, please see our general non-Hodgkin lymphoma section.