Hodgkin's Disease - Diagnosis

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What types of tests and exams led to a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease?

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How is the staging determined for Hodgkin's lymphoma?

After you learn that you have Hodgkin lymphoma, you may need other tests to help with making decisions about treatment. Staging tests can show the stage (extent) of disease, such as whether lymphoma cells are found in more than one group of lymph nodes.

Lymphoma cells usually spread from one group of lymph nodes to the next. For example, Hodgkin lymphoma that starts in lymph nodes in the neck may spread first to lymph nodes above the collarbones, and then to lymph nodes under the arms and within the chest.

In time, lymphoma cells can invade blood vessels and spread to almost any other part of the body. For example, they can spread to the liver, lungs, bone, and bone marrow.

Staging tests may include:

  • CT scan: Your doctor may order a CT scan of your neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis. An x-ray machine linked to a computer will take a series of detailed pictures of these areas. You'll receive contrast material by mouth and by injection into a blood vessel in your arm or hand. The contrast material makes swollen lymph nodes and other abnormal areas easier to see. The pictures can show whether Hodgkin lymphoma has spread.
  • PET scan: Your doctor may use a PET scan to find Hodgkin lymphoma that has spread. You'll receive an injection of a small amount of radioactive sugar. A machine makes computerized pictures of cells in your body that have taken up the radioactive sugar. Because lymphoma cells take up sugar faster than do normal cells, areas with lymphoma cells look brighter on the pictures.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: To check for lymphoma cells in the bone marrow, your doctor will use a thick needle to remove a small sample of bone and bone marrow from your hipbone or another large bone. Local anesthesia can help control pain.

Other staging tests may include biopsies of lymph nodes or other tissue.

Questions you may want to ask your doctor about testing

  • What type of Hodgkin lymphoma do I have?
  • How do I get a copy of the report from the pathologist?
  • Has the lymphoma spread? Was it found on both sides of the diaphragm?
Return to Hodgkin's Disease

See what others are saying

Comment from: BE, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: June 20

I am a 33-year-old male. About six months ago, I noticed some lumps on my neck. I thought I had a sinus infection, something I have dealt with throughout my life. After taking antibiotic, which did nothing to help, I had a CT scan. The scan detected several infected lymph nodes in my neck and one in my chest. After a biopsy of one of the lymph nodes, it was confirmed that I have Hodgkin's lymphoma. I start chemo and radiation in two weeks. Wish me luck.

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Comment from: fightcancerwithfire, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: May 05

I am a 34 year old firefighter who noticed a lump on the lower part of the right side of my neck, just above the collar bone. I was referred to a surgeon who did a biopsy of a swollen lymph node. I have early stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma. One of the earliest signs I had was 6 months prior; I had itching without a rash on both of my lower legs, inner thighs and the back of my arms with some facial itching as well. I went to a doctor and a dermatologist who just gave me some general instructions on how to keep my skin clean and properly moisturized. I was also open to the idea this could have been some kind of seasonal allergy I was developing but had never gone through this before. Those symptoms diminished after July but I started to notice more fatigue for several months (September to December) leading up to the lump on my neck (late December). My treatment is 4 months of chemotherapy and the latest scan, taken 2 months in, was clear of the cancer via PET scan which is more detailed than a CT scan. I should be done after 4 months of chemotherapy, not needing any radiation, with low chances of the cancer returning.

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