How Is Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnosed?

To confirm or rule out a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, an oncologist will typically order several tests to determine if cancer is present and, if so, its type and stage. The diagnostic and staging processes are usually performed simultaneously, and the resulting information is then used to develop a treatment plan.

The diagnostic and staging process for Hodgkin lymphoma

If Hodgkin lymphoma is suspected, your physician will likely begin with a review of your symptoms and a discussion of your personal and family medical history. Then, he or she may recommend one or more tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. For instance, you may be advised to undergo:

  • A physical examination – Your physician will check your neck, underarm and groin areas for enlarged lymph nodes, and also look for signs of swelling in your spleen and liver.
  • Blood testing – A sample of your blood will be drawn and sent to a lab for evaluation under a microscope for evidence of cancer.
  • Imaging – X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and positron emission tomography (PET) scans can reveal signs of Hodgkin lymphoma in various areas of your body.
  • A biopsy – During this procedure, your physician will remove one of your lymph nodes so that it can be tested in a lab for the presence of abnormal cells (Reed-Sternberg cells), a hallmark sign of Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • A bone marrow biopsy and aspiration – During this procedure, your physician will insert a needle into your hipbone to remove a sample of your bone marrow so that it can be analyzed in a lab for the presence of Hodgkin lymphoma cells.

There are many different types of Hodgkin lymphoma, some of which can be difficult to identify (especially if a pathologist is relatively inexperienced with this condition). Because an accurate diagnosis and proper staging are essential for developing an appropriate and effective treatment plan, you are encouraged to visit a high-volume cancer center such as Moffitt Cancer Center, where you can benefit from multiple expert opinions in a single location.

If you would like to learn about the full range of Hodgkin lymphoma diagnostic services available in the Malignant Hematology Program at Moffitt, or if you were recently diagnosed and would like to receive a second opinion, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.