Swollen Lymph nodes – 3 signs of unexpected cancer ?

Know common signs of cancer in neck node.

Lymph nodes swell when inflamed. Lymph nodes are called गिर्खा in Nepali. They are nodules that appear in different parts of human body when they are inflamed. Many of these nodes are located in your head and neck region. Nodes that frequently swell are in this area, as well as in your armpits and groin areas too.

Lymph nodes swelling is called lymph-adenopathy in medical terms. Sometimes patient come to doctor with complain of node swelling. Patient may have swollen node in their body which is only seen when medical tests like CT scan or MRI is done.

Nodes are usually inflamed because of bacterial or viral infections. They act like policemen – which ‘arrest’ the infection from spreading to other parts of the body. When there is swelling due to infection, these node become tender-painful and palpable.

Imagine if your teeth are infected, the lymph nodes in the neck swell. If there is infection in the legs, the nodes in the groin swell. So nodes in the draining channel of infection site is usually swollen.

Basically, these nodes are there to protect you – they hold the infection so that it doesn’t spread more. Like infections, cancer too can give lymph nodes – and this is how cancer is associated with nodes. So lymph node swellings can be due to cancer too.

Could it be cancer ? 

Not all lymph nodes are because of cancer ! Most of these swellings are because of infections or inflammation. But if swelling is there for more than a week, they should definitively go and see a doctor.

Some cancers and lymphoma ( cancer of lymph gland) can also present with swelling in lymph glands. If there is doubt please visit your doctor who will do your check up and find out the cause of swelling.

How to differentiate cancerous swelling from non-cancerous?

Usually your doctor will do some tests and examinations to tell you the type of swelling you have. There are some general rules which can be helpful to you,

Fever : If there is fever and gland swelling, it is usually due to some sort of infection. Sometimes lymphoma patients can also have fever

Pain : Usually cancerous node are painless. So if the swelling is painful or it hurts when you touch it, chances are it is due to infection.

Size : Usually size can vary from 1-2 cm. If there in continuous increase in size, then you need to consult your doctor

Swollen lymph node in Neck- can it be cancer
Swollen lymph node in Neck- can it be cancer

What tests may be necessary ?

Depending on your symptoms , your doctor may advise you one or more of following tests to reach diagnosis.

Medical history: The doctor will try to understand when and how the nodes got swollen, and check other signs and symptoms.
Family medical history: The doctor will want to know if you or any of your family members have a history of cancer or any of the conditions like tuberculosis.
Physical examination: The doctor will look at and feel the size, texture, warmth and tenderness of the nodes near the skin.

Blood tests. A complete blood count (CBC) and other specific tests are done to check for specific underlying conditions such as infections or blood cancers.
Imaging tests: An X-ray or CT scan of the affected area is done to identify possible sources of infection, or detect tumors.CT scan of neck can suggest about possible cause of swelling.

Lymph node biopsy: If none of the above tests are conclusive, the doctor may order for a biopsy of one or more swollen nodes. A small sample of tissue from swelling is extracted using a fine needle and examined under the microscope.

Where can I know more ? 

Our ENT and Head & Neck team is expert in managing this condition. You can book appointment to consult our expert doctors.

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