Tests and procedures used to diagnose lymphoma include:
- Physical exam. Your doctor may examine your body to look for signs of enlarged lymph nodes.
- Removing a lymph node for testing. Your doctor may recommend a lymph node biopsy procedure to remove all or part of a lymph node for laboratory testing. Advanced tests can determine if lymphoma cells are present and what types of cells are involved.
- Blood tests. Blood tests to count the number of cells in a sample of your blood can give your doctor clues about your diagnosis.
- Removing a sample of bone marrow for testing. A bone marrow biopsy and aspiration procedure involves inserting a needle into your hipbone to remove a sample of bone marrow. The sample is analyzed to look for lymphoma cells.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests may be used to look for signs of lymphoma in other areas of your body. Tests may include CT, MRI and positron emission tomography (PET).
Your lymphoma treatment options will depend on your type of lymphoma, its aggressiveness and your treatment goals.
Lymphoma treatments include:
- Active surveillance. Some forms of lymphoma are very slow growing. You and your doctor may decide to wait to treat your lymphoma when it causes signs and symptoms that interfere with your daily activities. Until then, you may undergo periodic tests to monitor your condition.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually administered through a vein, but can also be taken as a pill, depending on the specific drugs you receive.
- Other drug therapy. Other drugs used to treat lymphoma include targeted drugs that focus on specific abnormalities within your cancer cells that allow them to survive. Immunotherapy drugs use your immune system to kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses powerful beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, involves using high doses of chemotherapy and radiation to suppress your bone marrow. Then healthy bone marrow stem cells from your body or from a donor are infused into your blood where they travel to your bones and rebuild your bone marrow.
Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.
Coping and support
A lymphoma diagnosis can be overwhelming and scary. With time you'll find ways to cope with the distress and uncertainty of cancer. Until then, you may find it helps to:
- Learn enough about lymphoma to make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor about your lymphoma, including your type, your treatment options and, if you like, your prognosis. As you learn more about lymphoma, you may become more confident in making treatment decisions.
- Keep friends and family close. Keeping your close relationships strong will help you deal with your lymphoma. Friends and family can provide the practical support you'll need, such as helping take care of your house if you're in the hospital. And they can serve as emotional support when you feel overwhelmed by cancer.
Find someone to talk with. Find a good listener with whom you can talk about your hopes and fears. This may be a friend or family member. The concern and understanding of a counselor, medical social worker, clergy member or cancer support group also may be helpful.
Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. You might also contact a cancer organization such as the National Cancer Institute or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your family doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you have lymphoma, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the blood cells (hematologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For lymphoma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do I have lymphoma?
- What type of lymphoma do I have?
- What stage is my lymphoma?
- Is my lymphoma aggressive or slow growing?
- Will I need more tests?
- Will I need treatment?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the potential side effects of each treatment?
- How will treatment affect my daily life? Can I continue working?
- How long will treatment last?
- Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?
- If you had a friend or loved one in my situation, what advice would you give that person?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions as they come up during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
Lymphoma care at Mayo Clinic
June 01, 2017
- AskMayoExpert. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- The lymphoma guide: Information for patients and caregivers. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/resource-center/download-or-order-free-publications?language=English&category=Lymphoma. Accessed Feb. 15, 2017.
- Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq.
- Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 26, 2017.
- Lymphoma SPOREs. National Cancer Institute. https://trp.cancer.gov/spores/lymphoma.htm. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017.