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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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HIV, AIDS, and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

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Diagnosing Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Your doctor will complete a physical exam. Your doctor will also ask you about your history of health habits, past illnesses, and treatments. It's likely that your doctor will order tests like these:

  • Blood tests, to check levels of different types of blood cells, enzymes, and other substances
  • Lymph node biopsy, which involves removing part or all of a lymph node and examining it under a microscope
  • Bone marrow biopsy, which involves removing bone marrow, blood, and a small piece of bone from your hipbone or breastbone and examining it under a microscope.
  • Chest X-ray or CT scan, which creates a picture of organs and bones inside your chest

A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. After diagnosis, you will likely need imaging tests to find how far the cancer has spread.

If you're diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you're at greater risk for an opportunistic infection called pneumocystis pneumonia. Your doctor may suggest that you take medications to prevent it.

Treating Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

HIV therapy can make a big difference in the outcome of your cancer. How successful your treatment is (called your prognosis) depends on several factors like these:

  • How advanced the cancer is (the stage)
  • The number of CD4 cells you have
  • Whether or not you've had other AIDS-related opportunistic infections

These are different types of treatment you may need for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Radiation therapy involves using high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. You may receive radiation from a machine outside your body. Or a radioactive substance may be placed inside your body. Although radiation may cause side effects such as fatigue, skin problems, and stomach upset, these are often short-lived. Long-term side effects are more serious:

Chemotherapy is the use of special drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. They may work by killing the cells or by keeping them from dividing. You may receive them by:

  • Mouth or by injection into a vein or muscle, reaching the whole body (called systemic treatment)
  • Placement directly into one part of your body (called regional treatment)
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