The Stages of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The risk of your non-Hodgkin lymphoma spreading (metastasizing) is directly related to the size of your tumor or number of tumors. The term stage refers to the extent the tumor has spread. The stage is important in determining the likelihood of cure with treatment.

Small tumors are much less likely to have spread and have a higher likelihood of cure with treatment. Your physician will assign a stage to your cancer, but this often occurs after pathology results are available.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is described with a system of Roman numerals to detail the progression of your disease. Your physician will assign a stage according to the specific involvement of your non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which helps guide its treatment.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is staged in two ways. The clinical stage is your physician’s best understanding of the progression of your disease, based on these results:

  • Physical exam
  • Lab tests
  • Imaging studies

If you’ve had a biopsy, your pathologist can assess the pathological stage of your non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which may show that your lymphoma has spread more than first believed.

Lymphoma spreads throughout your body in three ways:

  • Invades surrounding healthy tissue
  • Spreads through your lymph system and travels to other parts of your body
  • Invades your blood and travels through your veins and capillaries to other parts of your body

To determine if your non-Hodgkin lymphoma has spread, your physician may order one or more of the following tests:

  • CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Bone scan

Recurrent lymphoma is lymphoma that has returned (recurred) after treatment. It may come back in some other part of your body. You may need a combination of treatments to manage recurrent lymphoma.


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