We have about 500-700 lymph nodes spread throughout our bodies. These are organs, not glands. They filter out and eliminate dead bacteria, viruses, and other sloughed off tissue from the lymphatic fluid.
The major groupings are:
- Cervical – nodes in the neck
- Supraclavicular – nodes along the collar bone
- Axillary – nodes in the armpits
- Mediastinal – nodes in the upper body
- Mesentery – nodes in the abdomen
- Inguinal – nodes in the groin
- Femoral – nodes in the upper inner thigh
My earlier lymphoma manifested with mesentery tumors.
When our immune system is activated, the lymph nodes produce large numbers of lymphocytes (white blood cells), which can cause the lymph nodes to swell. Most normal nodes are about .5cm to 2cm in size depending on their location and activity.
Infections and other problems—including cancer—can cause nodes to expand, a condition known as lymphadenopathy. People with persistent localized lymphadenopathy or those who have risk factors for malignancy, should undergo a biopsy.
A biopsy is the removal of cells or tissues for examination. There are three main types:
- fine-needle aspiration, in which a needle is used to extract cells.
- incisional biopsy in which a tissue sample is surgically removed.
- excisional biopsy, in which the entire node is surgically removed.
I’ve been fine-needle-aspirated a few times before. On Thursday the radiologist will tell me what’s in store this time.