Swollen neck lymph nodes: Is it worth a doctor's visit?

Patient

Q: My girlfriend has just notified me that her lymphnodes (glands) on the right side of her neck have been swollen for the past month. She had just went to the doctors but didn't mention anything thinking it would be nothing. She hasn't gotten sick or anything, no pain, but has been tired and lathargic at times. She recently had been concerned about a possible tumor, as cancer does run in the family, but is only 21 years old. Could it just be a normal infection, or do the symptomes appear to be something more serious? Thank you

Doctor

A:   I think she should go back to her doctor and tell him/her about the enlarged lymph nodes. Some lymphadenopathies (enlargement of lymph nodes) are just benign and caused by a viral or bacterial infection. A short course of antibiotics should result in reducing the size of lymph nodes. However, there are also serious causes of lymhadenopathies (lymphoma, HIV, autoimmune diseases, etc). It is noteworthy that lymhadenopathies caused by a lymphoma are usually painless. As you mentioned, she also feels weak at times; that, coupled with lymhadenopathy is somewhat alarming. A mere history and physical exam by a doctor coupled with blood tests and other procedures (chest xrays, etc) can rule out many of these serious causes. Even if it is not causing her pain or not bothering with her daily life, it is definitely worth checking out. I do hope this helps and take care always.

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