Diagnosing Lymphoma

This information is useful for children and adults
An Asian American woman is getting a checkup by a doctor.
Why Yale Medicine?
  • We have pathologists who are specialized in detecting blood cancers.
  • Team members work together to create the most effective and individualized treatment for each patient.
  • Our ongoing research aims to find improved drugs and approaches to treating lymphomas.

Lymphoma is a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system, which is a disease-fighting network of vessels and lymph nodes that spans the body and form part of the immune system. There are multiple types of lymphoma, including Hodgkin lymphoma and the more common non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In all cases, white blood cells (either B cells or T cells), which circulate in the blood and are found in lymph nodes across the body, become abnormal in that they grow uncontrollably. While lymphoma can strike at any age, it is most common in adults ages 60 and beyond.

Many people detect swollen lymph nodes in the form of a lump under the skin around the neck, groin or underarm areas that won't go away. A doctor may first prescribe antibiotics to see if the lymph nodes shrink after a few weeks.

Doctors make a diagnosis of lymphoma based on results from blood and urine tests, a physical exam, a biopsy of lymph nodes and/or bone marrow, and imaging tests. These can include X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET). PET is typically used to determine which stage the disease has reached.