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How is lymphoma diagnosed?

If your GP suspects lymphoma, you will have a physical examination. The doctor will feel the lymph nodes in your neck, underarms and groin for signs of swelling, and feel your abdomen to check for swollen organs.

The doctor will also organise other tests.


The most common way to diagnose and classify lymphoma is to remove some cells and tissue from an enlarged lymph node. This is called a biopsy and it is done in one of two ways: an excision biopsy (whole lymph node removed) or a core biopsy (needle inserted into the lymph node to remove a small piece of tissue).

Blood tests

Your doctor will take a blood sample to see how well your blood, kidneys and liver are working, and to check your general health.

Bone marrow biopsy

A sample from your bone marrow is taken with a needle to check whether lymphoma has spread to the bone marrow. It is usually done as an outpatient procedure and you may be offered light sedation to help you feel relaxed.

Imaging tests

You will usually have at least one of the following to check if the lymphoma has spread.

  • chest x-ray;
  • CT (computerised tomography) scan;
  • PET (positron emission tomography)-CT scan;
  • Ultrasound; or
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).


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This information is reviewed by

This information was written and last reviewed in September 2020 by Cancer Council SA's experienced information team with support from national Cancer Council publications.