The first signs and symptoms of lymphoma can be a painless lump that continues to grow, or symptoms can often be vague. In many cases these symptoms may not go away over time or your doctor may think it is an infection. You may have had scans or tests for another health condition, and these may have shown suspicion of lymphoma.
No matter what your situation is, if your doctor suspects that you may have lymphoma, they will need to organise a number of tests. These tests and scans are needed to confirm a diagnosis or to rule out lymphoma.
A tissue biopsy is the only way to confirm lymphoma, and the type of lymphoma. Further tests and scans are done to find out more about the type of lymphoma and where in the body it has affected. This helps them work out the best treatment plan for the patient.
Patients will continue to have tests and scans during the treatment, as part of the follow-up care and during periods of active monitoring lymphoma.
Important to note about interpreting diagnostic tests
Sometimes patients may be given reports from scans or tests before the next appointment with the medical team. It is tempting to read and try and interpret the results, however it is best to wait to speak to the medical team who will have all of the pieces of the puzzles in front of them. Things to note include:
- Biopsies and sometimes peripheral blood immunophenotyping are the only definitive tests for diagnosing lymphoma.
- Some tests can be reported as ‘normal’ even though lymphoma may be present
- Some tests may be reported as ‘abnormal’ even though lymphoma is not present.
- Other conditions can produce signs and symptoms similar to lymphoma
- The interpretation of tests, such as imaging studies and scans, can be lengthy and difficult in some situations.
- Follow-up tests are often needed to determine the significance of previous results; additional biopsies may be needed to clarify the results.
- Some patients like to review their written reports; when doing so, it is important for the patient to carefully review the findings with their doctor.