Diagnosing non-Hodgkin lymphoma

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on May 31, 2022.


A thorough and accurate cancer diagnosis is the first step in developing a non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment plan. A multidisciplinary team of lymphoma experts use a variety of tests and tools designed for diagnosing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, evaluating the disease and developing each patient’s individualized treatment plan. Throughout treatment, the patient's care team will use imaging and laboratory tests to track the size of the tumors, monitor the patient's response to treatment, and modify the treatment plan when needed.


We may use the biopsies to determine the type of lymphoma, the growth rate of the tumor and whether the disease has spread. Types of biopsies include:

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

Imaging tests

The following imaging tests may be used to help diagnose non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

Lab tests

The care team may use various diagnostic lab tests for non-Hodgkin lymphoma to plan and monitor the patient's treatment, including:

  • A flow cytometry test for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that may provide insight into whether tumor cells contain a normal or abnormal amount of DNA and determine the rate at which the tumor is growing

  • Blood and urine tests to rule out an infection or other disease and determine whether the lymphoma has spread

  • Liver function tests to measure the amounts of certain substances, such as lactate dehydrogenase, the liver has released into the blood

Lumbar puncture

The care team may perform a lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, to determine the extent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lumbar punctures may also be used to inject medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, to treat the disease.

Next topic: How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma treated?

Expert cancer care

is one call away.
appointments in as little as 24 hrs.