Lymph node biopsy
Taking some cells and tissue from an enlarged lymph node is the only way to find out why it’s swollen. This is called a biopsy.
Learn more about:
The different types of biopsy
Core needle biopsy
After the biopsy
The biopsy sample is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope by a specialist doctor called a pathologist. If cancer cells are found, the pathologist can tell which type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma they are.
The results will usually be ready in 7–10 days. This waiting period can be an anxious time and it may help to talk to a supportive friend, relative or health professional about how you are feeling.
This test looks for differences between types of cells. It does this by identifying markers called antigens, which are found on the surface of cells. Looking at the patterns of antigens can help your doctor work out what subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma you have.
Genetic tests (cytogenetic and molecular tests)
Cancer changes the genes of affected cells. These gene changes do not pass through families. They are only in the structure of the lymphoma cells, not in normal cells. Having tests to look for changes in the genes involved in lymphoma is becoming more standard.
The results of these genetic tests help doctors recommend the most suitable treatment options and work out the chance of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma coming back (relapsing) after a period of improvement (remission).
One of the main tests used to look for particular gene changes in certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridisation). This test uses special dyes to identify abnormalities in chromosomes, such as deletions and translocations.
I’d noticed a lump in my neck but didn’t think much of it. When I started sweating so much at night that the sheets were drenched, I went to the doctor. After a biopsy I was told I had follicular lymphoma. I had no idea what that was, I’d never heard of it.Helen
Podcast: Tests and Cancer
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A/Prof Christina Brown, Haematologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; Khaled Aly, Consumer; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital; Katrina Debosz, CAR-T and Lymphoma Nurse Practitioner, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; Dr Samuel Dickson, Radiation Oncologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle; Dr Wojt Janowski, Haematologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Karen Maddock, Blood Transplant and Cell Therapy Nurse Practitioner, Westmead Hospital; Sheridan Wellings, Consumer.
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