Diagnosis of NHL
Most people with lymphoma (e.g., up to 75 percent of HD patients) experience no classic symptoms. Often, lymphomas are diagnosed because of abnormalities found on chest x-rays or other imaging studies that are performed for nonspecific complaints.
If lymphoma is suspected, the physician obtains a full medical history to uncover any relevant symptoms or risk factors. A complete physical examination will supply other clues about possible infection, health problems, or signs of lymphoma. The physician pays particular attention to the size, location, tenderness, and consistency (firmness) of swollen lymph nodes, and will examine other lymphatic sites for possible disease.
Once the physician suspects that a patient has Hodgkin's disease (HD) or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), a biopsy of the enlarged lymph node is performed. In a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. A pathologist (disease diagnosis specialist) evaluates the tissue sample and looks for Reed-Sternberg (R-S) cells, which confirm a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease.