LYMPH NODES INFORMATION
WHAT ARE LYMPH NODES, AND WHAT ARE THEIR FUNCTION?
Lymph nodes are small tissue organs that contain white blood cells and form part of the body’s immune system. Lymph fluid is carried to lymph nodes by small channels called lymphatic vessels, and harmful bacteria and cancer cells are then filtered by the nodes. Lymph nodes also help fight infections.
WHERE ARE LYMPH NODES LOCATED?
Lymph nodes are located throughout your body, but are more concentrated in certain locations – in the neck, armpit, groin, and deep inside the chest and abdomen.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ABNORMALLY ENLARGED LYMPH NODES?
Lymph nodes often become enlarged as a result of infection or inflammatory conditions. In some cases an enlarged lymph node occurs as a result of cancer. In these cases, the cancer might be a primary cancer of the lymph node (lymphoma) or a secondary cancer which has spread to the lymph nodes from somewhere else. However, most patients referred for a consultation for an enlarged lymph node are diagnosed with a benign cause.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING MY CONSULTATION FOR AN ENLARGED LYMPH NODE?
Your consultation will begin with a careful history and physical examination, followed by review of your results including blood tests and scans. A bedside office ultrasound will be conducted to provide real-time diagnostic information. A nasendoscopy (thin fibre-optic camera procedure via the nostril) may be performed under local anaesthesia to examine the back of your throat if the abnormal lymph node is in the neck. Further investigations including additional scans and biopsies may be recommended. Treatment options will then be discussed and you will have the opportunity to ask questions in order to make the best decisions for your care.
HOW ARE ABNORMALLY ENLARGED LYMPH NODES INVESTIGATED AND TREATED?
The assessment of abnormally enlarged lymph nodes depends on the history, examination and appearance on ultrasound. It is often easy to differentiate benign infectious or inflammatory nodes from more sinister problems. In some patients, it is necessary to arrange additional scans (US, CT, PET) as well as a tissue biopsy. If the reason for the enlarged node remains unclear despite these measures, an operation to excise the node (‘excision biopsy’) may be arranged in order to fully determine the cause. This is usually a short operation performed as a day procedure.