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Hodgkin's Lymphoma Diagnosis

Successful treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma depends upon accurate and precise diagnosis. However, the disease may be challenging to diagnose. It is important for a specialist familiar with Hodgkin’s lymphoma to analyze your biopsy.

While most cancer centers see only a few cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma a year, our internationally known program focuses only on the disease. Our pathologists have some of the highest levels of expertise in Hodgkin’s lymphoma you’ll find anywhere. They use the latest technology and techniques to pinpoint disease.

Hodgkin's Lymphoma Diagnostic Tests

If you have symptoms that may signal Hodgkin’s 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’s 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:
    • X-Rays
    • CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
    • PET (positron emission tomography) scans
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • Blood tests
  • Liver and kidney function tests
  • Echocardiogram
  • 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’s lymphoma cells
  • Pulmonary function test: Determines how well the lungs are working

In rare cases, Hodgkin's 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's Lymphoma Staging

If you are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s 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 when it is diagnosed. 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's Lymphoma Stages

(source: National Cancer Institute)

Stage 1 (early stage): Cancer is found in one lymph node region.

Stage 2 (locally advanced disease): Cancer is found in:

  • Two or more lymph regions on one side of the diaphragm or
  • 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:

  • Lymph nodes above and below the diaphragm or
  • One node area and one organ on opposite sides of the diaphragm ("E" disease)

Stage 4 (widespread disease): The lymphoma is outside the lymph nodes and spleen and has spread to one or more areas such as bone, bone marrow, skin or organs.

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Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about Hodgkin's lymphoma in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.