Question :

Is it normal to have a swollen lymph node for six months?

Dear Ask The Doctor:
Hi, I am a 20 years old female. I have had a painless lump or swollen lymph node that has been in my neck for six 6 months now since December 2010 that can only be felt, but not seen. The lymph node is no bigger than the size of a half a dime and feels like a swollen kidney bean that keeps changing in size from small to big and then smaller again, but it never fully goes away. In terms of texture I can't tell if its firm, soft or hard. It's hard to tell. Anyway, I finally went to my doctor in early April 2011 to get it checked out and he put me on a weeks worth of antibiotics, and prescribed me some allergy and asthma medication. He also did a chest X-ray and blood test that came back normal. When I went back to my doctor he said that the lymph node had shrunk and that was a good sign and that it might have really been an infection. So he told me to observe it for a month and come back to check it out and if its still there he will send me for a biopsy. So far the lymph node is STILL there and it feels like it enlarged back a little, but that might be because I keep picking at it from worrying so much. So far I don't have any symptoms of fevers, night sweats, fatigue, persistent itching, or unexplained weight loss, in fact I gained ALOT of weight from anxiety and stress eating from the fear of this being lymphoma or some other cancer. Lastly, I think its in the posterior triangle area of my neck not sure of diagram of lymph nodes. Is it normal for a lymph node to be swollen for 6 months?


Answer :

Dear Patient: 
While it definately is not normal for a lymph node to remain swolled for this long the fact that the swelling you have is increasing and decreasing suggests that it may be due to a subclinical infection in your throat or nose or neckt that is draining into the lymph node. Moreover since the anitobiotics helped this also confirms this speculation. However I would still go ahead and get an ultrasound as well as a biopsy of the lymph node taken just to rule out any other cancerous growth. I hope this helps. All the best.


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