Swollen Lymph Nodes (cont.)

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What is the treatment for swollen lymph nodes?

There is no specific treatment for swollen lymph nodes. Generally, the underlying cause needs to be treated, which may result in the resolution of the swollen lymph node.

Treating an infection causing the swollen lymph node, for example, will result in the lymph node swelling to subside. If the swollen lymph node is due to a cancer of the lymph node (lymphoma), then the swelling will shrink after treating the lymphoma.

When should I see the doctor for swollen lymph nodes?

If swollen lymph nodes are associated with fevers, night sweats, or weight loss, and the patient does not have any obvious infection, he/she may need a through evaluation by a doctor.

Also, people who were appropriately treated for an infection but have persistent swollen lymph nodes may need to see their doctor.

If a patient has a known cancer, or were treated for one in the past and he/she notices new lymph nodes in the general area of the cancer, he/she may need to notify a physician.

What are the common lymph nodes that may become swollen?

There are many adult lymph nodes in varying parts of the body that may become swollen for different reasons. Many people can usually see swollen lymph nodes on the neck, behind the ear, under the jaw, above the collar bone, under the arms, and around the groin.

Swollen lymph nodes on the side of the neck or under jaw are the most common. They may represent an infection around that area, such as a tooth infection or abscess, throat infection, viral illness, or upper respiratory infection. Most of the causes of swollen lymph nodes in this area are benign (noncancerious); however, sometimes, swelling of these lymph nodes may also suggest a cancer in the head and neck area.

Swollen lymph nodes behind the ear may correspond to an infection around the scalp or possibly a conjunctival (eye) infection. The most common cause of scalp lylmph nodes are skin conditions affecting the scalp, such as dandruff (sebhorrheic dermatitis).

The lymph nodes in the underarm (axilla) are anatomically important in breast cancer. They are often checked physically in patients undergoing investigation for breast cancer. They also play an important role in staging (determining the extent) and prognosticating (predicting the outcome) of breast cancer during removal of the cancer tissue from the breast. These lymph nodes can also become reactive and enlarge due to a trauma to or an infection of the arm on the same side.

Enlarged lymph nodes above the collar bone (supraclavicular lymphadenopathy) are always considered to be abnormal. These generally suggest a cancer of or an infection in the region close by. Examples of these may include lung infection, lung cancer, lymphoma in the chest cavity, or breast cancer. Occasionally more distant cancers may seed these lymph nodes, such as genital cancers or colon cancer. Some inflammatory causes of the swollen lymph nodes above the collar bone (clavicle) can include tuberculosis or sarcoidosis.

Swollen lymph nodes in the groin may be normal in young people as mentioned earlier. However, they could also result from some sexually transmitted diseases, genital cancers, or infections of the lower extremity (legs) on the same side.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/15/2013

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