Cancer of the lymph nodes, also known as lymphoma, will effect more men than women. With about 5 percent of all cancers, lymphoma is found to develop more frequently in people between the ages of 15 to 55.
There are between 500 to 700 lymph nodes in the body found in groups mostly in the neck, underarm, chest, abdomen and groin. These nodes are tiny rounded or bean shaped masses.
The two forms of cancer are affecting these nodules are, Hodgkins Disease and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Hodgkins Disease is a rare form presenting symptoms of night sweats, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever and constant fatigue. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, the most common, has the same symptoms as Hodgkins Disease. Regardless of gender, if there is a family history of this form of cancer, the risk increases. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is believed to develop in people that have had a high exposure to herbicides and pesticides.
The lymph nodes are a part of the lymphatic system. Lymph, the fluid in this system originates as plasm, flows between cells delivering nutrients, oxygen and hormones to the cells. As it leaves the cells it removes excess fluid, dead blood cells, bacteria, viruses and all other waste material with it. These nodes will trap cancer cells, slowing the spread of the disease, until cancer overwhelms them.
Cancer can metastasize in other parts of the body by traveling either through the bloodstream or through the lymph nodes. When this happens the cancer will be still called by its origin, for instant papillary thyroid cancer or breast cancer, but with lymph node involvement.
The most common symptom or sign that cancer has spread to the nodes is that one or more of them are enlarged. With that said there are many other reasons this inflammation could happen, infection for instance. Your doctor will want to do a physical examination and blood and urine tests to rule out infection. For further screening diagnostic imaging to find the location of any tumors in the body will be done. A biopsy on the enlarged nodules may also be done either by surgery or by performing a fine needle aspiration.
Once all the diagnostic testing is complete the stage of the cancer can be determined. Staging of cancer is determined by the number of tumors, if they have spread and if so how intensely. Staging will assist the doctors determine treatment and the prognosis of the disease.
It is routine procedure when operating on an area of the body that has cancer like the thyroid or the breast, that suspicious and some normal lymph nodes are removed at the same time. These are all sent for biopsy. The pathology report will tell you how intensive the cancer of the lymph nodes is. In the case of papillary and follicular thyroid cancer the normal protocol, if the thyroid cancer is found in any of the nodes removed, is treatment with radioactive iodine will be required.
Like many cancers, when cancer of the lymph nodes is diagnosed in an early stage the better the prognosis. Today with all the medical advancements, there are many effective treatments available for this type of cancer.