Ask the expert: Can a relapsed lymphoma be picked up with a blood test?

Blood tests play only a small role in the diagnosis of lymphoma.

Image of lots of blood vials with different coloured caps

Blood tests play only a small role in the diagnosis of lymphoma. For blood tests to be abnormal there either has to be involvement of blood, or the cancer has to be influencing the blood production; altering it in some way. This is rare in lymphomas, with only chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia and some types of splenic lymphomas involving blood.

However, blood tests have multiple components and look at other aspects of health, such as liver and kidney function, and the presence of certain proteins in the blood. This information is important, but doctors rarely pick up lymphoma through a blood test alone.

To get a clear picture your doctor needs to examine you, talk to you and carry out tests. A scan may be arranged if your doctor suspects a relapse of lymphoma. It is by putting all these elements together - tests, physical examination and discussion and scan results - that doctors get the full picture.

Routine follow-up rarely picks up a relapsed lymphoma. If you have symptoms, feel unwell and have concerns about your health, contact your medical team straightaway.

Question taken from Lymphoma Matters, issue 108.

19 September 2019