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Is lymph node enlargement a tumor signal?
Is lymph node enlargement a tumor signal? There are many organs in the human body that are sensitive to diseases and can send out “signals” in time. Lymph nodes are one of them.
The lymphatic system is the core of immune function, and the lymph nodes are the “gate” to health. However, the lymph is very fragile. Once there is a problem with the lymphocytes, it will show swollen lymph nodes and may suffer from various diseases, even lymphoma.
In today’s high incidence of cancer, many people worry that they have cancer when they hear of swelling. Is lymph node swelling a tumor signal?
Why are lymph nodes swollen?
There are about 800 lymph nodes all over the human body, including about 300 in the head and neck. Some are distributed in the chest cavity, axillary fossa, supraclavicular fossa, mesenteric, retroperitoneum, and groin.
Under normal circumstances, we may feel the superficial lymph nodes, but they are often very small, with a diameter of less than 0.5 cm. The surface is smooth, soft, and non-tender. It is a safety checkpoint for the human immune system.
When bacteria or viruses infect the human body, the lymph nodes will be irritated, become swollen, hyperemic, and “reactive hyperplasia” occurs.
This situation often happens to brothers in the neck, especially humans with tooth infections or tonsillitis will often touch us, feel pain, and may even see red and swollen skin on the surface.
However, the most worrying thing is the swelling of lymph nodes caused by tumors, which can be nothing more than two conditions:
Primary lymphoma, that is, the lymph nodes themselves are “blackened” and become “terrorists.”
These “melanized” lymph nodes are generally distributed in the neck, supraclavicular, armpit, and groin area, and sometimes even arrogantly run into the human spleen, liver or bone marrow.
Another situation is that it is damaged by others, that is, lymph node metastatic cancer: when cancer cells run into our lymph nodes along the lymphatic duct, we immediately become lymph node metastatic cancer.
These “terrorists” often look ugly, have weird appearances, have lost their original appearance, and like to appear in groups. So when cancer patients find swollen lymph nodes, they should be extra vigilant!
Fortunately, swelling of lymph nodes caused by tumors accounts for only a minority, and most of them are related to inflammation. Therefore, lymph node enlargement is not necessarily a tumor signal!
Which parts of the lymph nodes should be extra careful?
01 Underarms: breast cancer
The armpit is an area where the lymph nodes of the upper body are densely distributed, and it is also prone to metastatic tumors, especially breast cancer. If there is swollen lymph nodes in the armpits and breast lumps, it may be accompanied by symptoms such as breast tenderness, skin folds or nipple discharge. You need to be alert to breast cancer.
02 Groin: Tumors of the genitourinary system
Inguinal lymph is the most densely distributed area of the lower body lymph nodes. If tumors occur in the urinary and reproductive systems such as the kidney, bladder, colorectum, uterus, etc., inguinal lymph node metastasis may occur.
For example, bladder cancer, which occurs in the middle and lower layers of muscle tissue, is easy to metastasize through blood or lymph due to the many blood vessels and rich blood flow in the muscle tissue, and symptoms such as inguinal lymphadenopathy may appear. Once discovered, it may be in the middle and late stages.
03 Clavicle: lung cancer and digestive system cancer
The first symptom of some patients with lung cancer and digestive system cancer is touching a supraclavicular mass. This is because the tumor cells move along the lymphatic circulation to the lymph nodes in other parts of the body. The supraclavicular lymph nodes are relatively superficial and are most easily found.
Left supraclavicular lymph nodes are mostly seen in gastrointestinal tumor metastases, such as gastric cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic head cancer, and pancreatic body cancer.
The right supraclavicular lymph nodes are enlarged, which can be seen in lymph node metastases of bronchial lung cancer and esophageal cancer.
It is worth noting that the swollen lymph nodes in the above three parts are just relatively more “dangerous”, and it does not mean that you have cancer. The specific results should be subject to the doctor’s examination.
How to distinguish between benign and malignant lymph nodes?
Swollen lymph nodes may indeed be related to cancer. So, how to distinguish whether it is benign or malignant? May wish to make preliminary judgments through the following two aspects:
01 Look at lymph node traits
Whether there is tenderness: Benign enlarged lymph nodes generally have obvious tenderness; malignant enlarged lymph nodes are mostly painless.
Look at the size: If the lymph nodes are enlarged more than 2cm, the possibility of malignancy is higher.
Look at the degree of activity: benign enlarged lymph nodes have good mobility and can move freely under the skin; malignant enlarged lymph nodes have poor mobility and are more difficult to promote, and several lymph nodes may appear in clusters.
Look at the texture: benign enlarged lymph nodes are generally soft and have clear borders; malignant enlarged lymph nodes are harder in texture and unclear borders, and often adhere to or fuse with surrounding tissues.
02 See accompanying symptoms
If the inflammation subsides, the swelling of the lymph nodes disappears and there are no other symptoms, which generally indicates benign. And if the lymph node enlargement persists or shows progressive increase after the inflammation is eliminated, it may indicate lymphoma, and some accompanying symptoms may also appear, such as:
①Itching all over
Some literatures indicate that itching is closely related to malignant tumors, and the site of pruritus is mostly the tumor growth site. Tumors with higher malignancy may also be accompanied by generalized pruritus.
If chronic intractable pruritus occurs, the primary skin disease is not found, and the antipruritic drugs have no effect, malignant tumors must be considered. Data show that 16% to 30% of elderly patients with lymphoma have different degrees of skin itching symptoms.
②Fever, cough, fatigue
The lymphatic system is closely related to blood circulation. After lymphoma, blood circulation may also be affected. Unexplained symptoms such as gray complexion, sudden weight loss, fever, night sweats, bleeding, and fatigue may occur.
Finally, teach you how to perform self-examination by touching the lymph nodes:
First, place the index finger, middle finger, and ring finger together, and place the finger pads flat on the skin of the inspected part for sliding palpation (the skin pressed by the finger pads slides between the subcutaneous tissue).
Secondly, the way of sliding should take multiple directions perpendicular to each other or rotary sliding. Through touch self-examination, abnormalities of lymph nodes can be found as early as possible.
Of course, don’t worry too much even if you find swollen lymph nodes. Most inflammatory lymph nodes can get better quickly with anti-inflammatory treatment.
If anti-inflammatory treatment is ineffective or accompanied by unexplained recurrent fever (usually above 38°C) or weight loss, it may be an early warning of cancer, and you should go to the hospital for investigation in time.
(source:internet, reference only)