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How to Diagnose Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Friday, 27 May 2011 09:54 AM

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a type of blood cancer (leukemia) that involves lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells). In NHL, uncontrollable and excessively high growth rate of lymphocytes overcrowd and impair the lymph nodes.
What distinguishes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from other cancers is that while the latter can spread to lymph tissue/nodes, they don’s originate there.
Symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma:
For NHL diagnosis, physicians look for these symptoms :
  • Excessive night sweats – to the extent that sleepwear and bed sheets become drenched with sweat.
  • Lymph node swelling (painless) – in the neck, collarbone region, armpits, or groin. However, this could be due to an infection, in which case, the swelling decreases and lymph nodes become normal in size within a few days/weeks. The size, firmness, and tenderness of swollen lymph nodes are particularly considered for NHL diagnosis.
  • Abdominal pain/swelling – Occurs if lymphatic tissue in the abdomen is affected by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Chest pain – suggests that the lymphatic tissue of the thymus is involved in the NHL.
  • Coughing/respiratory difficulties/shortness of breath ­– May be due to an enlarged thalamus, attributable to NHL, pressing against the windpipe.
  • Fatigue, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, excessive itching
  • Blood Test: It cannot detect lymphoma/NHL, but detects abnormal blood count that serves as a clue in diagnosing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 
  • X-ray, MRI, CT scan, Gallium scan, and PET scan: Detect enlargement/abnormalities of lymph nodes/ body organs.
  • Biopsy of enlarged lymph nodes:
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) – Can distinguish non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from an infection and other cancers. Helps determine the stage of NHL.
  • Excisional/surgical biopsy: If FNA fails but the physician suspects NHL, this diagnostic method is used.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: Bone marrow is extracted using a needle and is examined for signs of NHL.
  • Immunocytochemistry/ Flow Cytometry of biopsy samples are useful in NHL diagnosis.
For more on lymphoma, see below:

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Top 5 Symptoms

Leukemia: Latest Medical Breakthroughs

Leukemia: Top 5 Symptoms

Leukemia: How Your Diet Plays a Role

Leukemia: Top 5 Drugs That Work

Leukemia: Top Natural Supplements for Treatment


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