Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis

If you have swollen lymph nodes or another symptom that suggests Hodgkin’s lymphoma, your doctor will try to find out what’s causing the problem. Your doctor may ask about your personal and family medical history.

Tests used in diagnosing Hodgkin’s lymphoma

You may have some of the following exams and tests:

  • Physical exam: To check for swollen lymph nodes in your neck, underarms and groin. Your doctor also checks for a swollen spleen or liver.
  • Blood tests: To conduct a complete blood count to check the number of white blood cells and other cells and substances.
  • Chest X-rays: To reveal any swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease in your chest.
  • Biopsy:  To remove an entire lymph node (excisional biopsy) or only part of a lymph node (incisional biopsy). A thin needle (fine needle aspiration) usually cannot remove a large enough sample for the pathologist to diagnose Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Removing an entire lymph node is best. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The pathologist then uses a microscope to check the tissue for Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells. A person with Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually has large, abnormal cells known as Reed-Sternberg cells. They are not found in people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.