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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms include:

  • Painless swelling of the neck, underarm, groin, or any other lymph node bearing regions of the body
  • Unexplained fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Constant fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itchy skin, especially on the legs and feet
  • Reddened patches on the skin
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include an exam of your lymph nodes. Most enlarged or swollen lymph nodes result from an infection. If infection is suspected, you may be given medication and told to return.

If swelling persists, your doctor may order more tests. They will help to determine whether there is cancer and what type of cancer is present.

Tests may include the following:

  • Excisional or incisional biopsy —all of a lymph node (excisional) or part of the tumor (incisional) is removed to be examined in the lab to look for cancer
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy —a sample of tissue is removed from the tumor with a needle so it can be examined in the lab to look for cancer
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy —a small amount of bone marrow (aspiration) and bone are removed so it can be examined; often used to determine the extent of lymphoma
  • Spinal tap —A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid is removed and examined; this test is often used to determine the extent of lymphoma
  • Immunohistochemistry—antibodies are used to distinguish between different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas
  • Flow cytometry—Biopsy samples are treated with fluorescent antibodies and exposed to a laser beam to determine the cause of lymph node swelling and/or determine the exact type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Cytogenetics and/or molecular genetic studies—DNA in a lymphoma cell is examined for abnormalities
  • Blood tests—to help determine the advancement of the lymphoma
  • Chest x-ray —takes a picture of structures inside the chest to look for enlarged lymph nodes
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan —makes pictures of structures inside the body to look for lymphomas in the abdomen, head, pelvic, chest, and neck
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan —uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the brain and spinal cord
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan —radioactive solution is injected into a vein so a special camera can look for lymphoma throughout your body and/or determine if an enlarge lymph node contains lymphoma
  • Gallium scan—a radioactive solution is injected into a vein so a special camera can look for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in bones and other organs; this test is useful in finding tumors that may be missed by a PET scan
  • Bone scan —a radioactive solution is injected and travels to damaged parts of the bone
  • Ultrasound —uses sound waves to examine internal organs and find masses

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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