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Referral to a specialist

Find out when GPs refer people to see a non Hodgkin lymphoma specialist. 

Urgent referral

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to non Hodgkin lymphoma. This is called an urgent referral.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

UK referral guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) produce guidelines for GPs in the UK. The guidelines help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

While reading these guidelines, it is important to remember that: 

  • about 70 out of every 100 people (70%) diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma are over 60, but you can be diagnosed at any age
  • the most common symptoms are weight loss, tiredness, night sweats, a lump in a lymph gland (often in the armpit or neck) and an enlarged liver or spleen
  • between 35 and 45 out of every 100 people (35 to 45%) diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma have it somewhere in the body other than the lymph glands

UK referral guidelines for non Hodgkin lymphoma

You should have an urgent referral to see a blood disorder specialist (a haematologist) within 2 weeks if you have swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen, and your GP can't explain the cause.

Your GP should also take into account any other symptoms you might have, such as a high temperature (fever), night sweats, shortness of breath, very itchy skin or weight loss.

Children (aged 15 or under) and young people (aged 16-24) should be referred to a specialist within 2 days if they have swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen, and the GP can't explain the cause.

What to expect

If you are referred, a doctor at the hospital examines you again. They ask questions about any other illnesses you have had.

You will probably have a chest x-ray and you might have more blood tests to check your general health.

If you are still worried

Sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Together you can decide if you should see a specialist.

Last reviewed: 
02 Jul 2015
  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral (NICE guideline NG12) 2015 

    National institute for health and care excellence 

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