Diagnosing Hodgkin lymphoma

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on May 26, 2022.

Hodgkin lymphoma can be difficult to diagnose. Your multidisciplinary team of Hodgkin lymphoma cancer experts uses a variety of evidence-based tools and technologies designed for diagnosing Hodgkin lymphoma, evaluating the disease and developing a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Throughout your treatment, we'll use imaging and laboratory tests to monitor your response to treatment and modify your plan when needed.

Lab tests: We may use blood tests to rule out an infection or other disease and determine if the Hodgkin lymphoma has spread.

Biopsy: A biopsy is a common diagnostic test for Hodgkin lymphoma. Our pathologists will take the cells from a biopsy sample and examine them under a microscope to look for the presence of abnormal lymphocytes called the Reed-Sternberg cell. These distinctive cells are larger than normal lymphocytes and have large, pale nuclei. We may use these biopsies to determine the growth rate of the tumor and evaluate whether the disease has spread:

  • Bone marrow biopsy removes a sample of bone marrow.
  • Lymph node biopsy removes all or part of a lymph node.

Flow cytometry: A flow cytometry test for Hodgkin lymphoma may provide insight into whether the tumor cells contain a normal or abnormal amount of DNA, and the relative rate at which the tumor is growing.

Imaging: The following imaging tests may be used to help formulate a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis:

Next topic: How is Hodgkin lymphoma treated?

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