If you have persistent swelling in your lymph nodes, have a persistent
fever, have lost weight or regularly experience night sweats and
fatigue, see your doctor to determine the underlying cause. The earlier
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is diagnosed, the greater your chances for
Screening and diagnosis
Your doctor may use these procedures to help diagnose non-Hodgkin's
Your doctor may examine not only your swollen lymph nodes but also
your other lymph nodes to determine their size and consistency.
Blood and urine
Much of the time, having swollen lymph nodes means you're fighting
an infection. Blood and urine tests may help your doctor rule out an
infection or other disease.
An X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan of your chest, neck,
abdomen and pelvis may detect the presence and size of tumors.
Doctors are also increasingly using positron emission tomography
(PET) scanning to detect cancer. For this test, a small amount of a
radioactive tracer is injected into your body. This tracer is then
absorbed by the tissues in your body. Tumors are typically more
metabolically active than other tissues, so they absorb more of the
Taking a sample of lymph node tissue for examination in the
laboratory may reveal whether you have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and,
if so, which type. This procedure may show the lymphoma to be
growing slowly (low grade), growing at a moderate rate (intermediate
grade) or growing rapidly (high grade). Knowing the growth rate of
your tumor can help determine which treatment is best for you.
To find out whether the disease has spread, your doctor may request
a biopsy of your bone marrow. This involves inserting a needle into
your pelvic bones to obtain a sample of bone marrow.
Doctors classify non-Hodgkin's disease into about 30 types. Besides the
differentiation between B cell and T cell types of the disease,
classification is based on several other factors. These include
microscopic appearance, cellular genetic changes, cell size, staining
patterns with specific antibody stains, how the cancer cells group
together and how fast the cancer grows. Doctors also assign a stage (I
through IV) to the disease, based on the number of tumors and how widely
the tumors have spread.