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Forum Name: Head and Neck Cancer

Question: Multiple head and neck lymph node enlargement


 concerned rvn - Sun Oct 07, 2007 9:13 am

Dear Dr,
Thankyou for you time and assistance. I am a 32 yr old Female, non smoker who is relatively fit and active. I have previously been diagnosed with Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction, for which I have undergone two Sphincterotomies via ERCP. I have Eczema, mainly affecting my hands, legs and scalp and regularly suffer from Tonsilitis and Pharyngitis, though have not had an infection for several months.
There is Cancer on both my maternal and paternal sides along with Renal disease, Cardiac Disease and IDDM.
As a teenager I had several hard lumps on the back of my skull, behind my ears which would intermittently be painful and swollen and at the time, these were diagnosed as Sebacious cysts. I've never had need to question this and have put up with their "flair ups". Recently, however, I discovered an extremely visible and palpable, yet painless lump on the Right side of my neck on the line of my Sternocledomastoid muscle. My GP sent me for Utrasounds and the report was that this, along with the "lumps" on my skull were in fact, benign reactive lymph nodes.
Why are these nodes intermittently painful (skull) in the absence of any apparent infection (my ezcema on my scalp is no infected) and why does this node in my neck appear to fluctuate in size? There is a smaller, yet corresponding node on the left side also. It is not really painful, though is tender if palpated. The Nodes on my skull, which I believe to be the Post auricular nodes as well as some sub occipital nodes are firm and rubbery, though a couple are very hard and solid. In total, I have clusters of about 8 on each side. Should I have more investigations? Thanks
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Fri Jan 04, 2008 10:15 pm

User avatar Hi Concerned Rvn,

Lymph nodes often will swell and shrink as they are actively fighting an infection. A person may or may not actually become sick. Actually, if the lymph nodes and the immune system are successful the person will not become sick. So, most likely, you are noticing the lymph nodes swelling while they are fighting off an infection that you may or may not have been symptomatic from.

Occasionally, after a lymph node has become enlarged, it may not shrink back down to it's original size. Instead, it may stay about 1 cm in size. When this happens the lymph node continues to function properly, only it is a bit bigger than before. These nodes are referred to as "shotty" nodes because they can feel like B-B's under the skin (similar to buckshot).

My colleague, Dr. Fouad, had written a very good article on lymph nodes that you may find helpful. It can be found here.

Best wishes.

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