When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming. This phase involves finding out if your child has cancer and determining the type of cancer they have. Children’s cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as many symptoms are similar to those caused by less serious conditions, or injuries. This means that your child may need several tests and medical appointments before you receive confirmation that your child has cancer.

If your doctor thinks your child has Hodgkin lymphoma (or Hodgkin disease), your child may have the following tests:

  • medical history and physical exam
  • blood tests
  • medical imaging, such as:
    • chest X-ray
    • computed tomography (CT) scan
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • lymph node biopsy
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.

Our section, How is cancer diagnosed? explains these tests in more detail.



Doctors use staging to describe how much the cancer has grown. Some of the tests for Hodgkin lymphoma will also help to stage the tumour. Staging determines:

  • where the tumour is
  • how big the tumour is
  • what nearby organs it affects
  • if the tumour has spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor will use this information to choose the best way to treat the disease. Staging will also give your doctor an idea of how well these treatments are likely to work (prognosis).

How doctors assess the stage or extent of disease varies. They often describe Hodgkin lymphoma in four stages:

  • Stage I – the cancer occurs in one lymph node area or lymphoid organ (like the thymus). Or, in one organ outside the lymphatic system.
  • Stage II – the cancer occurs in two or more lymph node areas on the same side of the body. These can be either both above or both below the diaphragm, which separates the chest and the abdomen. The cancer can also spread from one lymph node area into a nearby organ.
  • Stage III – the cancer occurs in more than one lymph node area on both sides of the diaphragm (above and below). The cancer can also occur in lymph node areas both above and below the diaphragm, spreading to a nearby organ and/or the spleen.
  • Stage IV – the cancer has spread to one or more organs outside the lymphatic system. Alternatively, it occurs in two organs in distant parts of the body, but not in the nearby lymph nodes. Or, it occurs in the liver, bone marrow, lungs or cerebrospinal fluid.