Sarah Says: The signs of swollen glands


One of the most common reasons that I see people in my consulting room is because they’re worried about
swollen gland, and usually they’re talking about swollen glands in their necks. I
suspect the reason so many people worry about swollen glands is that they know that they can be a
symptom of cancer. Well here’s the good news: they almost always mean something much less scary. So let’s think a little bit
about what they are so we can understand why you get them, and what you need to look out for basically your glands, or “lymph glands” or “lymph nodes” are kind of like stations on a complicated railway
network and the railway lines are your lymph channels. Now those lymph channels are filled with a fluid called lymph, and they carry the white blood cells which help your
body to fight off infection around your body if you get an infection in one part or if
your body spots an “invader” it activates your
body’s immune system, your defense mechanisms, and they send
white cells rushing to the spot. They’ll congregate at that Station, that lymph node, and that’s why glands swell. If your slim you may be able to
feel normal size glands actually they’re about the size of a pea or a bit
smaller and some of them are just underneath the skin whereas others are buried deep inside the inside of your tummy and inside your chest but those ones that you can feel, are mostly in the armpits in the groin and round the head and neck now, you have title tracks of lymph glands
which go behind there and a little group in front of your ears you have more underneath the chin and
yet more just above your collar bone here. We also
have a chain which goes round the back of your
scalp, right at the bottom there. so there are lots and lots of glands, and actually if you feel one, it may not be enlarged at all however by far the most common reason for lymph
glands to get swollen is infection, and that does cause enlargement. Kids who have a lot of tonsillitis or sore throats, their glands will be going up and down like that all the time. If
you have an infection it’ll often make your glance well very quickly because
your body is rushing very quickly to the spot those glands will not only be large, but
then also be tender now which glands will be swollen will
depend on where the infection is so for instance your whole leg cranes to the limp glands in your groin, so an
infection in your toe could cause swollen glands in your groin. Very much
less likely, breast cancer, or an infection in your
breast, drains to the lymph glands in your armpit so it
could cause inflammation if those ones there. Obviously, sore throats could also cause
swollen glands inside your neck, but so too can say an
infection on the skin of your scalp. Cancer much less commonly causes inflammation. Some
infections like glandular fever can make all your glands swell, some
cancers, such as cancer of the lymph system itself can make all your glands swell but those
swollen glands tend in cancer to be much more slow growing, and they don’t end to be tender
at least at first. So how do you know if you do need to worry? Well certainly if you’ve got an infection and you’ve got swollen glands you
can pretty much always be sure that that’s why you’ve got the infection.
Have a look on Patient.co.UK if you’ve got a sore throat to find out whether you’ve got tonsillitis for instance which often causes swollen glands and whether or not you need antibiotics
for that. if you’ve got a source of infection and the lymph gland settle within a couple of weeks of the infection settling, you don’t need
to worry, but if you don’t have an obvious cause of infection if the lymph glands swell and don’t settle within a couple
of weeks and if you have other symptoms like
being generally unwell losing weight, night sweats, or fevers, do see a GP

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