Tests and scans for lymphoma

Doctors use tests and scans to diagnose lymphoma and to find out more about it after a diagnosis is confirmed. This helps them plan the best treatment for you.

You continue to have tests and scans during treatment, follow-up and any periods of ‘watch and wait’.

This section outlines the referral process and the tests and scans you might have at hospital.

General practitioner
Getting a referral for tests

Your GP is often the first person you see if you feel unwell or have symptoms of lymphoma.

Biopsy slide showing abnormal cells

A biopsy (sample of tissue) is usually needed before a diagnosis of lymphoma can be confirmed.

Rack of vials holding test tubes
Blood tests

Blood tests show how your body is affected by lymphoma and tell doctors about your general health.

Needle being inserted into bone marrow
Bone marrow tests

These test whether lymphoma is in your bone marrow, which is where blood cells are made.

Person lying in pet scanning machine
X-ray, CT, MRI, and PET scans

These work in different ways to give detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

Ultrasound scan image
Ultrasound scan

These scans use sound waves to take pictures of the inside of your body.

Needle being inserted into base of spine
Lumbar puncture

This test shows if lymphoma is in your central nervous system.

Waiting for your results

Find out why it’s necessary to wait for your results.


With thanks to the following organisations for the images that appear on this page:

  • Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge for the biopsy slide image
  • Adobe images for the blood tests image
  • iStock images for the scanning machine image, posed by a model
  • The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust for the ultrasound scan image.

Content last reviewed: November 2017

Next planned review: November 2020