How lymphoma is diagnosed

Usually, you begin by seeing your doctor (GP), who will examine you. They may arrange for you to have blood tests or scans. Your doctor will refer you to hospital for these tests and for specialist advice and treatment. At the hospital, the doctor will ask you about any symptoms, your general health and any illnesses you have had. They will also examine you.

If you think you may be pregnant, let your doctor know. Some tests and treatments for lymphoma can be harmful to a baby in the womb. Pregnant women can often still have tests and treatment for lymphoma. But it is important to talk to your doctor so they can plan your care safely.

Taking a tissue sample (biopsy)

The most important test for diagnosing lymphoma is a biopsy. A doctor or nurse will take a sample of tissue from the affected area. They may use a scan such as an ultrasound or CT scan to guide them to the area. This is called image guided biopsy.

They send the tissue sample to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope and for further tests.

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.

Lymph node biopsy

Most lymphomas involve the lymph nodes, so the most common place to take a biopsy from is an enlarged lymph node. You may have all or part of the lymph node removed. This may be done using a local anaesthetic to numb the area, or under a general anaesthetic while you are asleep.

For a few days after any biopsy, you may feel sore and bruised around the area. Taking mild painkillers will help. The bruising will go away in a couple of weeks.

Hodgkin lymphoma

Close-up of Kate looking thoughtful whilst sailing. Kate on diagnosis

'In a way, when you're the patient, it’s easy. You don’t have time to be scared.'

Waiting for test results

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. It may take from a few days to a couple of weeks for the results of your tests to be ready. You may find it helpful to talk with your partner, family or a close friend. Your specialist nurse or one of the organisations listed on our database, can also provide support. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

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