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Referral to a specialist

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

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be 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.

UK referral guidelines

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

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time frame is not part of the waiting times for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible. Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment.

Urgent referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a lymphoma specialist (a haematologist) if you have swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen, and your GP can't explain the cause.

Your doctor will ask about other symptoms, such as:

  • unexplained fevers
  • weight loss
  • night sweats
  • itchy skin
  • shortness of breath

Your doctor will also want to know about any other symptoms. So do mention anything else you are concerned about.

Children and young people

These guidelines also apply to children (aged 15 or under) and young people (aged 16-24). In England, if a child or young person has swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen (that the GP can't explain) they should see a specialist within 48 hours. 

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're 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. Then you might be able to decide together whether you should see a specialist.

Information and help