Skip to main content

Wilmot Cancer Institute Logo

Symptoms & Diagnosis

lymphoma cellsWilmot Cancer Institute provides the full spectrum of care for lymphoma and all blood disorders, from initial diagnosis and treatment to recovery and rehabilitation. Our oncologists, and even many of our nurses, specialize in specific blood cancers — meaning that your care provider is not just a cancer expert, but an expert in lymphoma.

In addition, Wilmot’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program is one of the top in New York State, performing nearly 160 transplants in 2015, and it has been recognized for its quality care.

Our lymphoma specialists work in multidisciplinary teams. Multidisciplinary means that our care providers have a variety of sub-specialties: surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse practitioners, social workers and clinical researchers. They work together on your case to provide the most personalized care possible.

Lymphoma symptoms

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to getting the best treatment. People who have lymphoma may feel like they have the flu with fever and fatigue. For this reason, early signs are not always recognized immediately as lymphoma. Other symptoms include:

  • Drenching and recurring night sweats
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Little appetite
  • Shortness of breath or a cough
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Enlarged or swollen lymph nodes
  • Swelling or fullness in the abdomen

Because lymphoma can develop almost anywhere, disease in the skin can cause a rash or red and purple lumps; disease in the brain can cause headaches or confusion; and disease in the chest or stomach can cause trouble breathing. Signs of Hodgkin lymphoma might also include itching skin and lumps under the skin of the neck, arm and groin areas that may become painful after drinking alcohol.

How is lymphoma diagnosed?

Some types of lymphoma can be difficult to diagnose, but Wilmot has an in-house pathology team with expertise in blood and lymph cancers to provide a precise diagnosis.

Medical history and physical examination: This includes a complete medical history and assessment of risk factors and symptoms. A doctor may check for lumps, swollen lymph nodes, and examine the skin and abdominal area. Lab and blood tests: Drawing blood and testing it in the laboratory allows pathologists to assess your white blood cell counts, red blood cell counts, platelet counts and other information. Too many or too few of a type of cell can raise a red flag for lymphoma.

Biopsy: Lymph nodes may be fully or partially removed and submitted to a pathologist for review under a microscope or other technology.

Imaging: This includes x-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans, ultrasound, bone scans or a Gallium scan, which involves injecting slightly radioactive gallium into a vein to highlight aggressive lymphomas.

Flow cytometry/immunohistochemistry: This type of diagnostic test can classify cells based on proteins they contain. It can help to classify lymphoma cells as cancerous or non-cancerous. This is also referred to as immunophenotyping.

Molecular genetic tests: These tests include cytogenetics (pathologists look at your chromosomes to determine if any have changed); fluorescent in situ hybridization or FISH (using fluorescent dyes that only attach to certain genes or chromosomes, allowing pathologists to find chromosome changes that are too small to be seen with a microscope); and polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests (similar to FISH but more sensitive).