Symptoms of lymph node cancer

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Symptoms of lymph node cancer
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Lymph nodes, small bean-like glands surrounded by tissue, are located throughout the human body along the lymphatic system. When they are functioning normally, lymph nodes filter bacteria and toxins from the lymph fluid in the body. When cancer strikes the lymphatic system, the lymph nodes suffer, and the cancer patient may experience one or more common symptoms. Lymph node cancer (lymphoma) generally fits into one of two categories, Hodgkin's disease or Non-Hodgkin's disease. The symptoms of both are similar.

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Swollen nodes

One of the earliest noticeable symptoms of lymph node cancer involves the swelling of the individual lymph glands. In parts of the body where the lymph nodes are near the skin's surface, including the sides of the neck, the armpits and the groin area, they may feel like enlarged bumps or lumps that may or may not be tender to the touch. Although swollen lymph nodes are a symptom of numerous disorders, they should be brought to the attention of a doctor.

Pain

A generalised tenderness in the area of a swollen lymph node may occur during the early stages of lymph node cancer, before symptoms that are more serious appear. The pain may increase after drinking alcohol. As the cancer progresses, lymph nodes in the abdomen may cause pain in the spleen may swell, creating tenderness in the abdomen and a feeling of fullness.

Appetite and Weight loss

The loss of appetite and the subsequent loss of weight are common with the progression of lymph node cancer. However, these symptoms are common in many medical disorders, and a physician should examine the patient to rule out another condition.

Additional symptoms

The cancer patient may suffer from additional symptoms when lymph node cancer strikes. Unexplained lethargy or fatigue is common, and the patient may run a low-grade fever, resulting in night sweats and chills. Some patients may experience itching that is not relieved by topical anti-itch creams. Chest pain and coughing may accompany lymph node cancer if the lymph glands within the chest are affected.

Diagnosis

Since the lymphatic system is involved in many other medical conditions, a doctor must order blood tests and conduct a physical exam before making a diagnosis. He may also take X-rays of the chest and abdomen and perform a biopsy of a swollen lymph node.

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