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Diagnosing Lymphoma

A number of different examinations and tests are usually required to diagnose Lymphoma and to determine how much the disease has spread. Depending on your situation, the doctor may use some or all of these tests to determine the best way to treat this cancer.

Information Sources

Your health history

  • Your family's history of disease, your personal illness history, your general health status, etc.

Physical examination

  • By the doctor.


  • A procedure where low dose radiation beams are used to provide images of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes.

CT scan/CAT scan

  • A series of X-rays that provide detailed, three-dimensional images of the inside of the body.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

  • An MRI is similar to a CT scan, but uses magnets instead of X-rays.

Gallium scan

  • A safe amount of radioactive gallium is injected into the person, after which an X-ray is performed to detect where the radioactive gallium makes the tumour(s) visible.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan

  • This is similar to a Gallium scan, except it is radioactive glucose which is injected into the person and is taken up preferentially by cells with a high metabolic (energy) activity, such as cancer cells. A scanner is then used to visualise the areas of the body where the radioactive glucose is concentrated.


Example output from a PET scan 

Laboratory tests

  • Blood tests and urine tests.


  • A biopsy is one of the most important steps in diagnosing the type of Lymphoma. It involves the removal of a sample of tissue (cells), usually performed by a surgeon. The cells are then examined under a microscope. Most people will have two types of biopsies: a lymph node biopsy and a bone marrow biopsy. A lymph node biopsy is used to confirm the diagnosis of Lymphoma and a bone marrow biopsy will detect if the Lymphoma has spread to the bone marrow.

All of this information is used to obtain an accurate diagnosis and decide on the best treatment for each person.

From the DVD - "Your Journey of Lymphoma Treatments"

Related video: Diagnosing Your Lymphoma