“You're not alone. Once we've extended our hand and grabbed yours, we don't let it go.”
Stephen Forman, M.D., DIRECTOR, HEMATOLOGIC MALIGNANCIES RESEARCH INSTITUTE, PROFESSOR, department of HEMATOLOGY & HEMATOPOIETIC CELL TRANSPLANTATION
Lymphoma is a large group of cancers with overlapping features. Since every patient’s disease looks different, getting an accurate diagnosis can be the most challenging part of treatment. In addition, the differences between lymphoma tumors are subtle, and since lymphoma involves immune system cells, it may be difficult to distinguish it from a typical infection.
For these reasons, treatment at City of Hope begins with leading-edge diagnostics performed by our world-renowned hematopathologists, who are well-versed in the entire spectrum of this disease. This powerful combination of experience, next-generation technology and talent are why we are known for transforming lymphoma patients with advanced or misdiagnosed disease — and dire diagnoses — into survivors.
Screening for Lymphoma
If you're part of a high-risk group, consider getting screened for lymphoma. Regular screening is one of the best ways to detect lymphoma, making treatment more manageable and effective.
Who Should Be Screened?
Overall, the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is higher in men than in women. However, certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are more common in women. Additionally, in the United States, Caucasians are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Having a first-degree relative — such as a parent or sibling — with non-Hodgkin lymphoma also increases your risk of developing it.
Diagnostic Tests and Tools for Lymphoma
Lymphoma is diagnosed using biopsy, which involves removing a small sliver of tissue or an entire lymph node and examining it under a microscope. A biopsy may be performed using a needle or with surgery, and the tissue is tested to determine the following:
- The type of abnormal cell involved in the lymphoma
- The size of the cell involved (small or large cell)
- The type of cell affected (B or T cells)
- Whether it is fast- or slow-growing
- Abnormalities inside the cell driving the lymphoma
- What markers are on the lymphoma cell surface
We perform several tests on the tissue to arrive at the most accurate diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is determined, other tests may be needed to determine where the lymphoma is in the body and the stage of the disease.
If cancer is suspected, we may perform other tests to visualize cancer better and determine if it has spread, including:
- Imaging tests: computed tomography, positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging
- Bone marrow aspiration: taking a small sample of marrow cells from inside the bone
- Bone marrow biopsy: removing a small sample of bone along with the marrow
These tests also serve as a baseline used later to assess your response to treatment.