Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped organs found throughout the body and linked by lymphatic channels. Lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system and act as “filters” which can trap foreign particles and cancer cells.
In their normal state, they are usually smaller than a pea in size, but in certain conditions, such as infections and cancers, they may become enlarged. When the lymph nodes in your neck are enlarged, you may be able to feel them as round to oval shaped swellings in your neck.
There are many reasons why the lymph nodes in the neck may become enlarged, but the two most common causes are due to infection and cancers.
Another common cause of lymph node enlargement is from cancer. The cancer may arise primarily from the lymph nodes (e.g. lymphoma), but often they have spread to the lymph nodes from somewhere else (e.g. tongue cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer).
Some other less common conditions in which lymph nodes of the neck can be enlarged include:
Depending on the presentation and findings, your doctor may need to perform a thorough head and neck examination that will include:
A breast examination and abdominal examination may be also required.
Further tests may be ordered that may include:
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