The world-renowned medical research experts at the OSUCCC – James are currently studying a number of different ways to detect non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) early so that treatment can begin as soon as possible, when options for treatment and cure are best.
Unlike some cancers, NHL has no screening test to help detect it, so the best way patients and doctors can work together to detect the disease is to know the risk factors and symptoms.
Diagnosing Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most frequently diagnosed by a lymph node biopsy of an enlarged lymph node.
Evaluation of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
If you are diagnosed with NHL, the OSUCCC – James experts will conduct an examination and often order a variety of blood tests, which may include:
During a physical exam, your doctor will check for signs of NHL by examining general signs of health; discussing your health habits, past illnesses and previous treatments; and looking for anything unusual, such as swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarm or groin.
A blood test measures and counts the different types of cells in the blood.
A complete blood count, also called a CBC, lets the medical experts check for:
• The number of red blood cells and platelets
• The number and type of white blood cells
Blood Chemistry Studies
These tests measure the function of the liver and kidneys and will determine what type and how much chemotherapy a patient can safely receive
The OSUCCC – James lymphoma specialists may use specialized X-rays or other imaging tests to help determine which lymph nodes are affected by NHL and if the disease has spread to other parts of the patient’s body.
Diagnostic medical imaging exams might include the following:
Computed Tomography (CT) Scanning
Use X-rays to capture cross-sectional images of the lymph nodes. Patients may need to have a dye injected into a vein to help highlight certain organs or tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans
Use powerful magnets to capture high-resolution images. MRIs can show excellent detail of certain areas inside the body, especially soft tissues.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
A nuclear medicine technology that finds spots of cancer activity in the body. By injecting a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) into a vein, the scanner can capture images where the sugar collects and identify cancer cell activity.
Some of these imaging tests, such as CT and PET, might also be used to see how well a patient’s cancer treatment is working.
Bone Marrow Aspiration & Biopsy
After NHL is confirmed, a patient may have a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to determine if the lymphoma has spread to the bone marrow.
During a bone marrow aspiration, an OSUCCC – James specialist will insert a hollow needle into the hip bone or breastbone to remove a small sample of liquid bone marrow. For a bone marrow biopsy, a hollow needle will be inserted into the hip bone to collect a small sample of bone and marrow.
By studying blood and bone marrow samples, blood disorder specialists (called hematopathologists) can look for certain changes in the white blood cells, called lymphocytes.
In this procedure, an OSUCCC – James expert inserts a needle into the patient’s spinal column to collect a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid for testing.
By studying this sample, blood disorder specialists (called hematopathologists) can look for signs of NHL in the spinal area.
(Source: National Cancer Institute)
Stages of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Lymphoma in one lymph node area or one group of lymph nodes, for example, only lymph nodes in the Left neck.
Lymphoma in two or more lymph node areas, either above or below the diaphragm. For example, lymph nodes that are enlarged in the R and L neck represent stage II lymphoma.
Lymphoma found in the lymph nodes or the spleen above and below the diaphragm.
Lymphoma spread to the bone marrow, the bones, or to more than one organ (i.e. the lungs, the liver, etc). Many non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are stage IV at diagnosis.
(Source: National Cancer Institute)
If you have received a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a lymphoma specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.