Lymphoma Diagnosis

Is Your Diagnosis Correct?

Because there are several subtypes of lymphoma, you need to be certain your diagnosis is correct to ensure that your treatment plan will work well. Our pathologists have extensive experience in identifying the many different subtypes of lymphoma.

Roswell Park is equipped with the advanced technology to provide a complete diagnostic workup. These resources enable us to determine the unique features of a patient’s lymphoma so we can pinpoint the best treatment options.

At Roswell Park, standard diagnostic tests for lymphoma include:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes, spleen or liver.
  • Blood tests: The lab does a complete blood count to check the number of lymphocytes and other cells in the blood. Other blood tests will evaluate kidney and liver functions, or provide important information to determine prognosis.
  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray can show swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease in your chest.
  • Lymph node biopsy: The best way to diagnose lymphoma is to perform a biopsy of a lymph node. The pathologist uses a microscope to look for abnormal cells. (The presence of an  abnormal cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell indicates that the disease is Hodgkin lymphoma.)

Additional key pathology studies for a lymphoma diagnosis include:

  • Immunohistochemistry study: After adding an antibody, dye or radioisotope (radioactive atoms) to the sample of cancer cells, the pathologist looks for certain antigens or proteins, which help distinguish one type of lymphoma from another.
  • Light and electron microscopy: A high-powered microscope helps identify changes in the cancer cells.
  • Cytogenetic analysis: This process makes it possible for the pathologist to look at the actual chromosomes of the cancer cell.
  • FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization): This enables the pathologist to look at the actual genes and chromosomes of the cell to identify any abnormalities.
  • Flow cytometry: This test measures the number of cells in a sample and can determine the percentage of cells that are live, or that have a certain characteristic, size, shape or tumor marker.
  • Molecular diagnostics: These tests can examine DNA, proteins and other components of blood or tissue.

To see how far the lymphoma has spread through the lymphatic system, other tests may be done. Typically, these include a CT scan and/or a PET-CT scan. Both of these procedures provide detailed images of the areas studied.

Our specialized laboratories will also provide information about unusual genetic and molecular markers of your disease, which may be important for your prognosis and also used to determine whether you are eligible for clinical trials.