Successfully treating Hodgkin lymphoma depends upon an accurate and precise diagnosis. However, the disease may be hard to diagnose. It is important for a specialist familiar with Hodgkin lymphoma to analyze your biopsy.
While most cancer centers see only a few cases of Hodgkin lymphoma a year, MD Anderson has an internationally known program that focuses only on the disease. We are one of the few cancer centers that include hematopathologists, specialized doctors who focus on diagnosing lymphoma and other blood cancers, on your care team. With a high level of expertise, they use the most modern equipment to find out the precise extent of disease. This can make a huge difference in accurate diagnosis and successful treatment.
Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnostic Tests
If you have symptoms that may signal Hodgkin lymphoma, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health, your lifestyle and family medical history.
One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if you have Hodgkin lymphoma. These tests also may help find out if your treatment is working.
- Lymph node biopsy: A small piece of tissue is removed from a lymph node and looked at under a microscope. Sometimes the entire node is removed.
- Imaging tests, which may include:
- CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
- PET/CT (positron emission tomography/ computed axial tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
- Blood tests to evaluate liver and kidney function
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: A thin needle is inserted into the hip or other large bone, and a small sample of cells from tissue inside the bone is collected. The cells are then looked with a microscope.
- Immunophenotyping: Cells from a lymph node, blood or bone marrow are examined with a microscope to determine the type of Hodgkin lymphoma cells.
- Pulmonary function test: Determines how well the lungs are working
In rare cases, Hodgkin lymphoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.
Hodgkin Lymphoma Staging
If you are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease. Staging is a way of classifying cancer by how much disease is in the body and where it has spread. This helps the doctor plan the best way to treat the cancer. Once the staging classification is determined, it stays the same even if treatment is successful or the cancer spreads.
Hodgkin Lymphoma Stages
(source: National Cancer Institute)
Stage I (early stage):
- Stage I: Cancer is found in one lymph node region. This includes:
- Lymph nodes
- Waldeyer’s ring (lymphoid tissue in the throat, comprising the tonsils, adenoids and other lymphoid tissue)
- Stage 1E: Cancer is found outside the lymph system in one organ or area.
Stage II (locally advanced disease): Cancer is found in:
- Stage II: Cancer is found in two or more lymph regions on one side of the diaphragm
- Stage IIE: Cancer is found in one lymph node region plus a nearby area or organ. This is called "extension," or "E" disease
Stage 3 (advanced disease): Cancer is found in:
- Stage III: Cancer is found lymph nodes above and below the diaphragm
- Stage IIIE: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm and in a nearby area or organ
- Stage IIIS: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm and in the spleen
- Stage IIIE,S: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm, outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ and in the spleen.
Stage IV (widespread disease):
Cancer is found:
- outside the lymph nodes throughout one or more organs, and may be in lymph nodes near those organs; or
- outside the lymph nodes in one organ and has spread to areas far away from that organ; or
- in the lung, liver, bone marrow, or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The cancer has not spread to the lung, liver, bone marrow, or CSF from nearby areas.
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