Being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Usually, you begin by seeing your doctor (GP), who will examine you and may arrange for you to have tests or x-rays. 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 your symptoms and general health, and about any illnesses you’ve had. They will also examine you. You may be asked to have blood tests and a chest x-ray to check your general health.

How non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed

The most important test for diagnosing lymphoma is a biopsy.

This involves a doctor or nurse taking a sample of tissue from the affected area. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory to be checked for lymphoma cells.

Many lymphomas start in the lymph nodes, so 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 and after the area has been numbed
  • general anaesthetic, while you are asleep.

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.

We have more information about what happens during biopsy.

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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Further tests after diagnosis

Further tests can tell your specialist the stage of your lymphoma. This helps them plan the most effective treatment.