In determining a diagnosis of lymphoma, your physician will review your medical history and perform a physical exam. The purpose of the physical exam is to detect any enlarged lymph nodes or an enlarged liver or spleen.
Blood tests may be ordered to check the function of your liver and kidneys. If lymphoma is suspected a biopsy removing a small amount of tissue from the area of concern will be removed. This tissue will be examined by a pathologist to determine if it is lymphoma.
Classification of Lymphomas
Lymphomas are graded as low, intermediate and high depending on the kind of lymphoma cells present and how they affect lymph nodes and chromosomes. Some lymphomas grow faster and require specific treatment. Classifying them is complex because many kinds of lymphocyte cells can be involved.
Types of Lymphomas
Based on the course of disease and the kind of lymphocytes affected, lymphomas are divided into two types:
Radiotherapy is the preferred treatment for patients with stage I or II lymphomas because it successfully induces long-term remissions and even cures in many cases. For treatment of stage III or IV low-grade disorders, one school of thought is to start intensive therapy right after diagnosis - whether a patient has symptoms or not - to achieve and maintain complete remission. Treatment usually consists of high-dose radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both. Intensive treatment involves risk, but recent studies suggest that such treatment may induce high rates of remission.
Bone marrow transplant is currently being studied as a treatment option for low-grade lymphoma.
Staging is a system of categorizing an individual's disease into one of four groups or "stages," which give a general idea of how far the disease has spread and how it should be treated. This is done after a series of tests are conducted to determine which parts of your body are affected by lymphoma.
Once the type and stage of lymphoma are determine you and your physician will discuss your treatment options and determine the best course of care for you.