The Newly Diagnosed Lymphoma Patient - Tests That You Need

Doctor reading chest xrays
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The test that gives your doctor the proof that you have a lymphoma is a biopsy. Most often a biopsy is obtained by cutting out a lymph node that has enlarged. This can usually be done in an outpatient setting or in a day surgery center.

Occasionally, other affected parts of the body may require a biopsy. In a biopsy, tissue is removed, sectioned onto slides and stained to reveal details about the cells. The biopsy slides are then examined under a microscope by a pathologist who identifies lymphoma cells and diagnoses the cancer.

Identifying the type of lymphoma:

It is very important to know which of the nearly 30 types of lymphoma you have. A basic differentiation of Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma can usually be made from the simple biopsy slides.

To get deeper into the detail, you need immunohistochemistry done on the tissue removed in the biopsy. This procedure can identify unique molecules on the tumor cell surface of different types of lymphoma using special stains and precisely categorizing the tumor.

  • In-depth: Lymphoma Markers: learn more about how CD markers are used to identify different types of lymphoma and determine the prognosis.

Mapping the spread of lymphoma:

A number of tests are needed to accurately define how far your disease has spread. This will be an important part of identifying the stage of your lymphoma, which will guide further treatment decisions.

  • Your doctor will examine you to see which lymph nodes in your body have enlarged.
  • You need a bone marrow test to see if your marrow is involved. Your marrow is where blood cells are produced, including the lymphocytes which have become disordered in lymphoma. This is also done in an outpatient or day surgery setting.
  • You need X-rays or CT-scans of the chest and your abdomen to identify disease in those areas.
  • Occasionally special scans like a gallium scan or a PET scan may be used to differentiate active disease from normal tissue and identify new areas with disease.

Blood tests as a baseline:

You will have to undergo a set of blood tests. Blood tests can tell the doctor whether your lymphoma has affected your blood production. Blood tests will also assess your overall health, they will show whether your kidneys and liver are in good shape or not. This information is used to decide the line of treatment and the drugs that will be used. The blood tests generally done include the complete blood count, general blood chemistries and the lactate dehydrogenae (LDH) test. They may also look for viruses such as hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and HIV>

Calculating the stage of lymphoma:

Using the data gathered from these tests, as well as your symptoms and examination findings, your oncologist will calculate the stage of your lymphoma. The stage determines what treatment to use and what your treatment outcome is likely to be. To find out more about staging, how it is done and what it means, read Understanding Lymphoma Stages.

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