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When Should I Be Concerned About Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Medically known as lymphadenopathy, the swollen lymph nodes are the result of general reaction of the immune system. The common reason for swelling of lymph node is infection. However, the lymph node may also be swollen due to other reasons, some of which are required immediate examination and treatment. The reasons for swollen lymph nodes may be cancer or autoimmune disorder. Although, cancer as the reason for swollen lymph node occurs very rarely but, if complimented by other symptoms pointing towards cancer, is a cause of concern and should be immediately analyzed.

When Should I Be Concerned About Swollen Lymph Nodes?

When Should I Be Concerned About Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Lymph nodes are mainly composed of lymphocytes. The function of these cells is fighting against diseases. When the lymph nodes are swollen, this usually indicates that the lymphocytes are performing their function and the lymph nodes get swollen during this function. The common reason for swollen lymph nodes is infection. With the swollen lymph nodes, the patient also experiences certain other symptoms such as fever, body ache, and runny nose are present. In the skin infection, lymph nodes are also swollen along with other symptoms such as rashes and redness. However, there are certain reasons, other than infection that causes swollen lymph nodes. Some of these reasons may be the cause for concern and should be evaluated by a medical expert. The symptom that required almost immediate medical attention includes:

  • The swelling of the lymph glad does not reduce or continue to grow.
  • The nodes found in the specific locations are also the cause of concern. For instance, swollen nodes found in supraclavicular bone (collar bone). The swollen lymph nodes in these areas may be complimentary to the tumor originated in lungs, chest and abdomen.
  • If there are other symptoms of cancer along with the swollen lymph nodes such as night sweats and weight loss.
  • The lymph nodes, in swollen condition, are about 1 cm in diameter. Any nodes significantly larger than normal should be carefully analyzed.
  • The lymph node which are non-malignant are soft and movable. However, if any hard and non-movable swollen node found, careful examination is required.
  • If there is any swelling or inflammation on the underlying disease, there might be secondary infection.

The swollen lymph nodes are actually the body’s immune response against the infection and after the infection is treated, the lymph noes came in the previous size. However, any increase in size of the lymph node even after there is no sign of infection should be examined for cancer.

Reasons For Swollen Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are part of immune system and helps in fighting the body against any invaders such as virus and bacteria. The lymph nodes swell due to variety of reasons. Those reasons are:

  1. Infection: When the lymphocytes fight against the infection they swell. One of the most common infection causing lymph node swelling is flu which is a viral infection. Other infections include ear infection, tooth infection, measles, and skin wounds. The other, not-so-common infection may include tuberculosis, and toxoplasmosis.
  2. Cancer: When the swollen lymph nodes are larger than the swollen lymph node seen in infection (almost 1 cm in diameter) along with other symptoms such as night sweat and weight loss, cancer may be the cause.
  3. Autoimmune Disease: Lymph nodes may also get swollen in various autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.


If any person gets the swollen lymph node, the thing that struck in mind instantaneously is the possibility of cancer. However, that is not the case when things are evaluated from the statistically point of view. Very few cases of swollen lymph nodes are caused due to cancer. There are certain other features that differentiate the non-cancerous lymph nodes from cancerous. If the size of lymph node is increasing, or if the swollen lymph node is hard and immovable and if the patient is experiencing the other cancer symptoms, than it may be cause of concern and should be medically evaluated.


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 5, 2023

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