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Differences in Lymph Nodes Affected by Cancer and Infection

Basically, the difference between lymph node infection and lymph cancer is difficult to recognize if you only rely on physical appearance. The reason is, these two conditions have almost the same symptoms. Check out the differences in the characteristics of cancerous lymph nodes and full infection below.

Differences in Lymph Nodes Affected by Cancer and Infection

Symptoms of Lymph Nodes with Cancer

Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system which functions to fight infections, viruses, germs, and destroy toxic substances that enter the body.

Several conditions such as colds, sore throats, and ear infections can cause swollen lymph nodes. The swelling may shrink if you try to treat the infection.

However, the cause of swelling in these organs can also occur due to cancer. So, how do you distinguish swollen lymph nodes due to infection from swelling caused by cancer?

Previously, understand that cancer can spread in any part of the body, including the lymph nodes. Cancer can grow in this area or appear due to the spread of cancer cells from other organs of the body.

When cancer grows alone in the lymph nodes, this type of cancer is called lymphoma. This condition has two types: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The characteristics of lymph nodes affected by cancer are generally the same as those of infected lymph nodes, namely the appearance of a lump due to swelling.

In addition, other symptoms that can be experienced include:

  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Often exhausted.
  • Fever.
  • Weight loss.
  • Itching of the skin.

Also Read: Food Abstinence for Lymph Node Sufferers

How Does Cancer Spread to Lymph Nodes?

Cancer can grow alone in the lymph nodes or appear due to the spread of cancer from other body parts. This spread is called metastatic.

Cancer cells that spread to new parts of the body must go through several changes. First, the cells must be able to detach from the original tumor and attach to the outer wall of the lymph or blood vessels.

Then, cells must move through the walls of blood vessels to convey blood or lymph to new organs or lymph nodes.

Most of these cells die before they can attach to other organs, while some can end up in the lymph nodes.

Symptoms of Infected Lymph Nodes

The characteristics of lymph nodes due to infection can be observed from the appearance of swelling or soft lumps. You may feel pain when you touch the lump.

In addition, several other symptoms that can be experienced, including:

  • Have a cold.
  • Fever.
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat.

Several diseases or infections that trigger swollen lymph nodes include:

  • Flu.
  • Sinus infection.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Tooth or gum infection.
  • Sore throat.
  • Skin infection.
  • Mononucleosis.
  • Fungal infection.

Also Read: 11 Symptoms of Lymphatic Cancer that are Rarely Noticed

When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?

Common symptoms of swollen lymph nodes can include fever, cough and runny nose. Usually, if the infection is mild, the swelling can get better on its own.

Meanwhile, if you suspect an unusual condition in the swollen lymph nodes, you can immediately see a doctor.

Some of the symptoms of swollen glands that you can watch out for include:

  • Appears for no apparent reason.
  • Continues to enlarge after more than 2-4 weeks.

The doctor will do an examination to determine whether the swelling is caused by cancer or infection.

In addition, several examinations can also be carried out, starting from a physical examination to supporting examinations, such as a CT scan, MRI, and biopsy.

Now you know the characteristics of infected and cancerous lymph nodes. If you encounter unusual symptoms of swollen lymph nodes, you don’t need to delay checking with your doctor.

  1. Anonymous. 2021. Lymph Nodes and Cancer. (Accessed February 22, 2023).
  2. Anonymous. 2021. Swollen Lymph Nodes. (Accessed February 22, 2023).
  3. Gill, Karen. 2019. Why Are My Lymph Nodes Swollen? (Accessed February 22, 2023).
  4. Sigel, Kate. 2022. When Do Swollen Lymph Nodes Mean Cancer? (Accessed February 22, 2023).

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