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About Lymphoma > Diagnostic Terms

Last update: 01/01/2015

Terms found on pathology reports

Cell and tissue types | Terms indicating
BenignBorderline or Vague and Cancer

Additional Background Topics
Glossary | Glossary of Immunity | Genes | Lymphatic System | Lymphoma Simplified  | Remission & Response | Treatment background | What's Lymphoma | Lymphoma simplified  | Tumor Basics

This page is a work in progress. We update this list in response to visitor questions.

Cell and tissue types or appearance

ATYPICAL means not typical (abnormal)

CLEAVED  - notched or ridged appearance of lymphoma cell under a microscope

CLONALITY - Are the lymphoid cells all alike?- clonal (monoclonal). Monoclonal cells supports the diagnosis of a lymphoid neoplasm although it is not considered an absolute indicator.  

EPITHELIUM - a tissue that normally lines the surfaces and cavities of the body.

DIFFERENTIATION refers to the maturation stage of the atypical cells. Blood cells go through phases of development, or stages of maturation, just a human being go through stages: infant, child,  adolescent ... The process of maturation of cells is called differentiation - how the cell changes, or the differences in what the cell expresses at each stage. (not unlike: infant = bald, child = thin hair, adolescent = curly hair, old age = bald, etc. )

DIFFUSE - a spreading growth pattern within the lymph node - diffuse instead of nodular. See

DILATED - expanded

DYSPLASIA (dis-PLAY-zha) - cells that look abnormal under a microscope but are not cancer. 

FOLLICULAR - sphere-shaped

GRADE - defines how aggressive or slow growing the malignant cells are likely to be based on the percentage of large to small cells. See Grading for details

HISTIOCYTIC - connective tissue containing large white blood cells

HYPERPLASIA (hye-per-PLAY-zha) - An increase in the number of cells in an organ or tissue. (source NCI). Sometimes this word is used as follows:  Reactive hyperplasia, indicating that the increase in the size of a lymph node is due to normal immune cells increasing in number in reaction to a pathogen (bacteria, or virus). 

KARYOTYPIC ABNORMALITIES - abnormality in the number, form or structure of chromosomes.

LYMPHOID - pertaining to lymphocytes or the lymphatic system


MARGINAL ZONE of the B follicle represents a well-defined compartment of the B-cell area, a distinct cellular composition from that of the follicle centre (follicular b-cells), from which it also differs in its functional role in the immune response."

MUCOSA - a membrane secreting mucus.

NEOPLASIA (NEE-o-PLAY-zha) Abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth. (source NCI)

NODULAR - well-defined knot of tissue

PLASMACYTIC DIFFERENTIATION - cells that resemble plasma cells - a mature stage of a white blood cell.

REACTIVE HYPERPLASIA - tissue contains normal cellular content, although the number and size of follicles is greater, suggesting a reaction to an infection and not malignancy.

PERIVASCULAR - around the blood vessels.

VILLOUS - having long soft hairs, or hairy in appearance.

Benign (non-cancer) Indications

INFLAMMATION (suffix: "itis") - a swelling usually caused by an immune reaction in response to antigens (bacteria, virus, etc.)  Tell-tale signs included swelling, pain, tenderness, redness, heat, and/or loss of function of the affected part. Some types of inflammation are not easily diagnosed as such and will require biopsy to distinguish them from NEOPLASMS. The suffix "-itis" is appended to a root word to indicate "inflammation of _____." 

ABSCESS - a contained pocket containing pus. Deep and chronic abscesses resemble a TUMOR and require biopsy to distinguish them from NEOPLASM.

GRANULOMA - a type of INFLAMMATION characterized by accumulations of macrophages. 

NECROSIS - means 'death of tissue.' Necrosis may be seen in inflammatory conditions, as well as in NEOPLASMS. 

NEOPLASM, or NEOPLASIA - a collection of cells no longer under normal control. These may be BENIGN or MALIGNANT.

BENIGN NEOPLASMS - lumps or masses that are not cancers, and not generally a threat to the health of the patient.

Lipoma - a benign tumor composed of fatty tissue. They are the most common form of soft tissue tumor.[1] Lipomas are soft to the touch, usually movable, and are generally painless.

POLYP - a growth that resembles a mushroom growing from the soil. Polyps my be HYPERPLASTIC, METAPLASTIC, NEOPLASTIC, INFLAMMATORY, or none of the above. 

REACTIVE HYPERPLASIA - tissue contains normal cellular content, although the number and size of follicles is greater, suggesting a reaction to an infection and not malignancy.

Borderline or Vague Indications

AGGREGATION - a clustering of cells as in Lymphoid aggregation found in the bone marrow.

ATYPICAL - a term indicating suspicious cells that could be cancer, but not confirmed as such. For instance, lymphomas (cancers of the lymph nodes) are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Some lymph node biopsies are very disturbing but do not quite fulfill the criteria for cancer. 

DYSPLASIA - an ATYPICAL accumulation of cells. Often considered a 'pre-cancer.' An intermediate category between HYPERPLASIA and MALIGNANT NEOPLASIA. 

Probably the most commonly occurring type of DYSPLASIA is that of the cervix of the uterus, where a progression from DYSPLASIA to NEOPLASIA can be clearly demonstrated. Other DYSPLASIA, such as those of the breast and prostate, are more difficult to clearly relate to NEOPLASIA at this time. 

HYPERPLASIA - an accumulation of cells which is not NEOPLASTIC. Sometimes the result of the body's normal reaction to an imbalance or other stimulus. Sometimes the cause is not apparent. 

Example: the enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck as a result of reaction to a bacterial throat infection. The lymphocytes which make up the node divide and proliferate, taking up more volume in the node and causing it to expand. In this case being synonymous with INFLAMMATION.

LESION - a lesion may be a TUMOR, an area of INFLAMMATION, or an invisible biochemical abnormality (like the abnormality of the sensitivity of the body's cells to insulin in adult-onset diabetes). METAPLASIA.

TUMOR - a mass or lump. This may be a NEOPLASM, HYPERPLASIA, distention, swelling, or anything that causes a local increase in volume. Not all tumors are cancers, and not all cancers are tumors.  Also See Tumor Basics, for more detail and related terms.

Indicating Cancer

-OMA a suffix means "tumor" or "lump."  It typically, but not always, refers to a NEOPLASM 

Examples: Lymphoma Adenoma, Carcinoma, Sarcoma 

MALIGNANT - determined to be a cancer

MALIGNANT NEOPLASMS (cancer) - lumps or masses that are cancers, and represent a threat to the patient.  

METASTATIC - a process by which malignant NEOPLASMS shed individual cells, which can travel through the lymph vessels or blood vessels, lodge in some distant organ, and grow into tumors in their own right. 



Disclaimer:  The information on is not intended to be a substitute for 
professional medical advice or to replace your relationship with a physician.
For all medical concerns, you should always consult your doctor. 
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