Is Mesenteric Lymphadenitis Cancer?

Is Mesenteric Lymphadenitis Cancer?

Mesenteric lymphadenitis involves inflammation of the lymph nodes located in the mesentery. In most cases, enlarged lymph nodes are associated with infections, although some benign or malignant growths could lead to swollen lymph nodes. In short, mesenteric lymphadenitis is non-cancerous. However, that does not mean that cancer cannot cause swelling on the mesentery lymph nodes. There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body that make up the lymphatic system. They contain white blood cells which are circulated within the system and when their concentration in a certain region increases, the lymph nodes swell. The underlying cause can either be an infection or cancer such as lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, lymphomas, and gastrointestinal cancer.

What Is Mesenteric Lymphadenitis?

As mentioned, mesenteric lymphadenitis refers to the swelling of lymph nodes located in the tissue (mesentery) that links the abdominal walls and intestines. It can either be primary mesenteric lymphadenitis or secondary mesenteric lymphadenitis. The former is when three or more lymph nodes have swelled up and are larger than 5 mm in width. It is often caused by viral and bacterial infections. On the other hand, secondary mesenteric lymphadenitis is associated with an underlying inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis. Mesenteric lymphadenitis is the second most common cause of right lower quadrant abdominal pains after appendicitis.

Is Mesenteric Lymphadenitis Cancer?

Is Mesenteric Lymphadenitis Dangerous?

Mesenteric lymphadenitis is not considered a dangerous condition. But, having swollen lymph nodes for a long time may be as a result of a more serious complication. For example, cancer. The common signs of mesenteric lymphadenitis include;

This disorder of swollen mesentery lymph nodes can only be considered life-threatening if; one experiences severe abdominal pains, distension and bloating, and extremely high fever that perseveres for a long period of time. Aside from that, mesenteric lymphadenitis will go away on its own with or without intervention.

Important Facts About Mesenteric Lymphadenitis

Mesenteric lymphadenitis is not contagious and hence cannot be spread directly from one patient to the other. However, indirectly, one can contract a viral or bacterial infection from another individual, which in turn can lead to the swelling of lymph nodes.

As much as the mesentery lymph nodes are connected to the lymphatic system, which contains other lymph nodes, this condition only arises when the lymph nodes near the mesentery are affected.

Mesenteric lymphadenitis is not cancerous. Nonetheless, cancer can lead to mesenteric lymphadenitis if it affects the mesentery lymph nodes in one way or the other way. Furthermore, the lymph nodes are part of the immune system which helps the body fight against infections, diseases, inflammations and even cancer.

The symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis may mimic those of a more severe condition i.e. appendicitis. This is often because patients suffering from both conditions experience pain in the lower right abdominal quadrant. However, the two are different because mesenteric lymphadenitis can get better on its own, but appendicitis will require surgery to remove the organ.

Signs of Cancerous Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes associated with cancer are usually as a result of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The existence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma may cause symptoms including respiratory infections such as the flu or a cold. Other than the common symptoms are;

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Swollen and painful abdomen
  • Chills and drenching night sweats
  • The feeling of fullness and decreased appetite
  • Severe fatigue
  • Shortness of breath and coughing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent infections that can become severe
  • Easy bruising


Clearly, the common symptoms of swollen lymph nodes that are as a result of lymphadenitis are totally different from swollen lymph nodes due to cancer. So, it is highly unlikely that mesenteric lymphadenitis is cancer. But, the underlying cause could be cancer. Regardless of the cause of swollen lymph nodes, it is important to seek treatment to prevent any further medical complications. An imaging may be required to diagnose mesenteric lymphadenitis since the underlying cause could be a serious complication that would require extensive treatment.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 23, 2021

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