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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

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Understanding Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma -- Diagnosis & Treatment

How Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnosed?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed by a tissue biopsy. If there is an enlarged, painless lymph node, without of an infection, a biopsy will be needed. 

To perform a lymph node biopsy a doctor will cut into the lymph node to remove a sample of tissue or remove the entire lymph node. If the biopsy shows a non-Hodgkin lymphoma, further testing will be needed to determine the specific type of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as to determine the stage of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Depending on your specific symptoms, the type of the lymphoma, its site of origin, and the biopsy results, you will need some or all of the following tests:

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Lymphoma refers to a malignancy of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of nodes (knots of tissue) connected by vessels. Together, the lymph nodes drain fluid and waste products from  the body. The lymph nodes act as tiny filters, removing foreign organisms and cells. Lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that helps fight  infections caused by  bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The lymph node function is to prevent infections from entering the bloodstream. When the lymphatic...

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  • Blood tests
  • Bone marrow biopsy, possibly two or more
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans of the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture), depending upon the type, stage, and location of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • PET scan
  • Upper GI series and small bowel X-rays
  • Upper GI endoscopy
  • MRI scans for a spinal or epidural lymphoma
  • Testicular ultrasound to evaluate the opposite testicle for a testicular lymphoma primary site
  • Head and neck examination

Tissue samples will be sent for testing to classify the type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

These tests give important information that aid in determining the type of treatment for the type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed.  A stage will be designated  to describe the extent of the lymphoma.


What Are the Treatments for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

For non-Hodgkin lymphoma, treatments are based  on the type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed,  its stage, and the  symptoms present, if any. The goal of treatment is to eradicate the lymphoma while causing as little damage as possible to normal cells to minimize the side effects of treatment. Talk with your doctor about any treatment related side effects.

The most common treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include 

  • Chemotherapy (drugs) 
  • Radiation
  • Radioimmunotherapy
  • Monoclonal antibodies

These treatments may be used in combination or alone, depending on the type, stage, and symptoms of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


Prevention of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Because most causes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are unknown, there are few ways known to prevent its occurrence. Researchers are looking into prevention of infections that have been associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, such as HHV-8, HIV, HTLV-1, and H. pylori. Avoiding exposure to certain chemicals, such as lead, arsenic, pesticides, vinyl chloride, and asbestos, may help reduce the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Wearing appropriate protective safety equipment, on the job, and around the house, is important if there is a possibility of exposure to these chemicals.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on April 02, 2013

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