Mantle-Cell LymphomaLymphoma

Diagnosing Mantle-Cell Lymphoma

Common signs and symptoms of mantle-cell lymphoma may be similar to other conditions. A comprehensive workup including a physical examination, lab tests, and imaging may be required to establish a definitive diagnosis and identify the disease stage.
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Mantle-cell lymphoma (MCL) is 1 of approximately 70 subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL),1 and patients who have a potential diagnosis of MCL need to make sure their subtype has been correctly identified. This is critical, because the choice of treatment can be different depending on the subtype.

Common signs and symptoms of MCL may include 1 or more of the following1,2:

  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin area
  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Fever
  • Recurring night sweats
  • Feeling very tired
  • Itching or rash
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.

Many other diseases cause similar symptoms; therefore, making a definitive diagnosis can be challenging. To diagnose MCL, a doctor conducts a surgical biopsy to remove an enlarged lymph node and check it for lymphoma cells.1

If the physician suspects MCL, the initial workup will include a careful physical examination, with close attention paid to lymph node areas, to look for the presence of lymphoma symptoms.1 The physician will typically order a laboratory assessment that includes a complete blood count, chemistry profile, and measurement of serum lactate dehydrogenase.3

If MCL is confirmed, additional tests and scans will be done to determine how many groups of lymph nodes are affected and whether the lymphoma has spread. This may also include a bone marrow evaluation and PET scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.3

These tests are needed to identify the stage of the disease. MCL, like other subtypes of NHL, is staged, or categorized, as low grade (meaning that it is slow-growing) or high grade (fast-growing). Staging is important, because it can help guide your physician to recommend the best possible treatment option.4


  1. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Mantle cell lymphoma. Accessed March 1, 2019.
  2. Lymphoma News Today. Mantle cell lymphoma: what you need to know. Accessed March 1, 2019.
  3. Vose JM. Mantle cell lymphoma: 2017 update on diagnosis, risk-stratification, and clinical management. Am J Hematol. 2017;92:806-813.
  4. Cancer Research UK. Mantle cell lymphoma. Last reviewed February 1, 2018. Accessed March 1, 2019.
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Last modified: March 27, 2019

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