Debra Wood, RN
Diagnosis often starts when someone sees their doctor for specific symptoms, and also has painless, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, collarbone, armpit, or groin. For some, swollen lymph nodes in the chest are found incidentally during a chest x-ray.
There are several noncancerous reasons why lymph nodes maybe swollen. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and family and medical history. Lymph nodes throughout the body will be carefully examined. The doctor will check other areas of the body, such as the spleen and liver, for swelling. If there are no obvious reasons for these symptoms, a blood disorder may be suspected.
A lymph node biopsy is the only way to confirm a diagnosis. During the biopsy, all or part of a lymph node is removed. The tissue is examined under a microscope to look for a specific cancer cells. The presence of these cells indicate Hodgkin lymphoma. Types of biopsies include:
If Hodgkin lymphoma is confirmed, the results from the biopsy and new tests will help determine the stage of the cancer. Staging is used to identify characteristics of the cancer. Staging as well as other information like age and overall health will help develop the prognosis and treatment plan.
Staging is determined by a number of factors. Tests will vary by individual, but may include:
Hodgkin lymphoma is staged from I-IV:
For treatment purposes Hodgkin lymphoma may also be grouped as:
Diagnosis. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/hodgkin-lymphoma/diagnosis. Accessed March 3, 2016.
American Cancer Society website. Available at:
Accessed March 3, 2016.
Hodgkin lymphoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/hodgkin-lymphoma. Updated October 2012. Accessed March 3, 2016.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 8, 2016. Accessed March 3, 2016.
Stages of adult Hodgkin lymphoma. National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
Updated October 27, 2015. Accessed March 3, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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