Your lymph nodes are located in different areas of your body close to organs such as the stomach, intestines and lungs. They are also in the armpits, groin and neck. Lymph nodes help your body fight infections. Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes could be caused by minor infections, but if the swelling grows or remains, it is important to schedule an appointment with Alabama Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists to determine the cause. Other symptoms that you may be experiencing that could be a sign of a deeper issue include a continual fever, night sweats, or weight loss. These symptoms could mean a chronic infection, an immune disorder, or cancer.
Your doctor may perform a lymph node biopsy that involves taking a tissue sample or removing the entire lymph node. The doctors may also perform a culture if you have an infection with the swelling, genetics test, or test the body’s immune system. There are a few different biopsy options your doctor may choose to perform.
- Needle Biopsy – This involves the insertion of a fine needle into the lymph node to remove a small sample of the cells and only take around 15 minutes. During this procedure, the needle insertion spot will first be numbed to prevent any discomfort. Once inserted, the needle will be guided by an ultrasound or CT scan into the lymph node. It does not require any type of anesthesia.
- Open Biopsy – This procedure removes the entire lymph node or a portion of the lymph to help make a proper diagnosis. It is usually performed with local anesthesia and takes between 30 to 45 minutes. A small incision is made, the lymph node is removed, and stiches are placed to close the biopsy site. This may also be done under general anesthesia depending on where the lymph node is located.If the lymph node is found cancerous, the entirety will be removed and the procedure may require extra time. Following your procedure, our doctors will stitch up the site of the incision. You may feel tired for a few days following your procedure, but this is normal amongst most patients.
- Sentinel Biopsy – If your swollen lymph node has been confirmed as cancerous, our team will perform a sentinel biopsy. Here, our team will work to discover where the cancer is most likely to spread to. This is performed by using a tracer or dye at the site of the swollen lymph node. This will trace the path of where the cancer may spread, which is most commonly to the nearest lymph node. Once discovered, these nodes will then be removed.
Other Causes of Enlarged Lymph Nodes
In some cases, the enlarged lymph nodes are benign. However, Alabama ENT will need to do additional testing as the swelling can also be a sign of HIV or infection.
Following your biopsy, risks may include tenderness, infection, bleeding, or numbness caused by nerve damage during the procedure although this is rare. These risks normally disappear within two months’ post procedure.
After the biopsy is performed, the results will give your doctor at Alabama Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists a better understanding of how to best to treat you, by discovering the cause of the swollen node. If cancer cells are detected within the lymph node, the primary source of the cancer can be identified, as cancer from other sites can spread to lymph nodes. It could be a sign of lung cancer, oral cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma or breast cancer. If you have swollen lymph nodes, contact Alabama Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists right away to schedule an appointment.