Is it a lump or something to worry about?

It’s always a good idea to check any new bumps or lumps, but in the case of swollen glands, it may just be your body doing its job.

According to WebMD, swollen lymph nodes are often a sign that your body is fighting off an infection or illness.

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped lumps of tissue distributed throughout the body including the neck, armpits, groin, around the gut and between the lungs. They primarily filter lymph fluid from around the body. 

Read: Lumps and bumps 101: when to worry about your lumps

And what is lymph fluid? Well, it’s the fluid your body drains from the lymphatic system, a network of tubes throughout the body that removes all the fluids that leak out of blood vessels and dumps it back into the body via the lymph nodes. Less politely, it has on occasion been called the body’s ‘sewerage system’ even though it’s classed as part of the body’s immune system.

Other lymphatic organs include the tonsils, adenoids and spleen.

Lymph nodes have a wide range of functions, but in their primary purpose as a filter for lymph fluid they react to bacteria, diseases including cancer, and absorb some of the fat from the digestive system. They also contain white blood cells called lymphocytes that rapidly multiply to fight any detected disease and bacteria, which is why they become swollen. They’re just busy getting on with their job.

Read: Delta Goodrem on battling lymphoma 

So generally, those sore bumps in your throat or armpits are a good sign, but sometimes it’s a sign of something untoward, which is why you should get them checked out if swelling or tenderness continues.

Swollen lymph nodes can be an indicator of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease and cancer including lymphoma and leukaemia.

As well as persistent swelling and tenderness, you should also see a doctor if the glands swell suddenly, they are very hard or won’t move when you push them, the area around them turns red or purple or they feel warm, if you experience sudden weight loss or have a fever that won’t go away.

Read: Study finds some cancers are ‘better left undiscovered’

Some cancers start in the lymph nodes but others can spread throughout the body via the lymphatic system and lymph nodes. 

It’s very rarely cancer, but if concerned your doctor will order bloods tests and scans and, if they aren’t conclusive, a biopsy. 

Meanwhile, if you are just experiencing mild symptoms, a warm wheat bag applied to the area, over-the-counter pain relief and plenty of rest are the best way to treat any discomfort.

Have you ever had a concerning lump? How did you handle it? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

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Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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