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Further tests for non Hodgkin lymphoma

Men and women discussing non Hodgkin's lymphoma

This page tells you about tests you may have if you have been diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Further tests for non Hodgkin lymphoma

If you had a swollen lymph node biopsied and lymphoma cells were found, you will need to have more tests. These tests are to find the type of lymphoma and whether it has spread. The doctors will need to know which parts of your body are affected.

You are most likely to have blood tests and a CT scan. You may also need a PET scan, a bone marrow test or an ultrasound scan.

Tests occasionally used in lymphoma

Some people have one or two other tests, as well as the ones above. You may have

After the tests

Waiting for results is a very anxious time for most people. While you are waiting it may help to talk to your clinical nurse specialist or a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through similar experiences.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Diagnosing NHL section.

 

 

Tests you may have

If you had a swollen lymph node biopsied and lymphoma cells were found, you will need to have more tests. These tests are to find the type of lymphoma and see whether it has spread. Your doctors will need to know which parts of your body are affected.

You are likely to have blood tests and a CT scan. Some people also have a PET scan, bone marrow test or an ultrasound scan. These tests will be repeated every so often during your treatment to check how you are doing.

 

Blood tests

Throughout your treatment you will be asked to have blood tests. These are to check

  • Blood cell levels
  • How well your liver is working
  • How well your kidneys are working
  • Blood levels of substances such as calcium and proteins
  • LDH levels

LDH stands for lactate dehydrogenase. This is a normal substance in the blood but it is at higher than normal levels in some types of cancer. 

We have information about having blood tests.

 

CT scan

You may have a CT scan of your chest, tummy (abdomen) or pelvis. This is a type of X-ray that takes pictures from different angles. These feed into a computer and form a detailed picture of the inside of your body. The scan shows up any lymph nodes affected by lymphoma. 

The scan technician or doctor may ask you to drink a liquid called contrast medium before the scan. The liquid makes the scan pictures of your gut clearer. But unfortunately, it may give you diarrhoea afterwards. 

See our information about having a CT scan.

 

PET scan

PET scans are useful for some types of lymphoma. Your doctor can tell you whether it may be helpful in your case. But this type of scan is sometimes used for people with high grade lymphoma. They are useful for staging lymphoma and seeing how well treatment has worked.

PET scans can show the difference between tissues that are actively growing (like cancer) and an old injury or scar. So it can also show if swollen lymph nodes after treatment are scar tissue or lymphoma that has not responded to treatment. 

We have information about having a PET scan.

 

Bone marrow test

This test is to see whether there are cancer cells in your bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft part of the middle of some bones and makes blood cells. The doctor takes a small sample of bone marrow cells from your hip bone or breast bone to look at under a microscope. The test takes a few minutes and you can have it as an outpatient. 

You can check out our information about having a bone marrow test.

 

Ultrasound scan

Ultrasound scans are useful for looking at individual organs such as the liver and kidneys and showing any changes. 

You can read about having an ultrasound scan.

 

Other tests sometimes used in NHL

 As well as the tests above, some people need other tests. You may have one or more of these tests.

Lumbar puncture

A lumbar puncture is a test to check the fluid that circulates round the brain and spinal cord (the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF). This is to see whether there are any lymphoma cells in your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). 

You can read about having a lumbar puncture.

Endoscopy

This is a test that uses a flexible tube called an endoscope to look inside the body. The tube has a camera and a light inside it. This test can be used to check the stomach and food pipe (oesophagus), the upper airways, or the bowel and back passage. For non Hodgkin lymphoma you are most likely to have endoscopy of your food pipe and stomach or upper airways. 

We have detailed information about having an endoscopy

There is also detailed information about having endoscopy of the bowel in our bowel cancer tests section.

MRI scan

You may have an MRI scan to give the doctor a clearer idea of where the lymphoma is in your body. MRI scans can sometimes show up soft tissue more clearly than CT scans.

Find out about having an MRI scan

Bone scan

This test looks for NHL in the bones. You will only have this if you have bone pain. 

We have information about having a bone scan.

 

After the tests

You will need to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. But this will take a little time, maybe a week or so. This is a very anxious time for most people. 

While you are waiting for results, it may help to talk to your clinical nurse specialist or a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through similar experiences.

If you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family, look at our counselling organisations page. To find out more about counselling, look in the counselling section.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

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Updated: 2 September 2014