Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Understanding medical tests for NHL

Your doctor will perform a physical exam. If he or she suspects lymphoma after reviewing your signs and symptoms, tests will be ordered. These tests will confirm the diagnosis and determine what type of lymphoma you have and how advanced the disease is. They may include blood tests and a biopsy.

Common tests to evaluate NHL:

  • Physical exam: your doctor will check for swollen lymph nodes, liver, or spleen (an organ in your abdomen) and other signs of NHL
  • Biopsy: a lymph node or small sample of bone marrow is removed and viewed under a microscope to see if you have NHL
  • Blood test: samples of your blood are taken and examined
    The tests your doctor orders may also include imaging tests and/or scans to help him or her learn where NHL is in your body:

Patients with NHL often have CT scans of the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis to find out how many lymph nodes are involved, how large they are, and whether internal organs are affected by the disease.

While CT scans show the size of a lymph node, PET scans show if the lymph node is active (still has disease). CT and PET scans are now sometimes combined into one test (PET/CT).

This test can tell your doctor if the lymphoma has spread to the bones, brain, or spinal cord.


RITUXAN is available by prescription only.