Swollen Neck Lymph Nodes: Can They Cause Pain? Are They Malignant?
Pain in the lymph nodes in your neck can adversely affect your daily life. It may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection that causes swelling in the area. In some cases, these inflamed lymph nodes may also be malignant.
This can indicate a type of cancer called lymphoma which starts in the cells of your lymph system, an essential part of our immune system.
In this post, we discuss the main causes of pain in the lymph nodes in the neck. We also talk about the conditions in which swelling in these lymph nodes may mean cancer.
Let’s get started.
What Causes Pain in Swollen Neck Lymph Nodes?
Here are the key causes of swollen lymph nodes in the neck and when they are considered malignant:
Lymph nodes are tiny, bean-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue along the lymph vessels. Lymph vessels are the tubes through which lymph fluid travels. Lymph nodes store lymphocytes, the white blood cells that fight germs, foreign substances, and even malignant cells. They also filter out bacteria and others substances from the lymph fluid.
Swelling and pain in your lymph nodes can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections; for example throat infections. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck are known as lymphadenopathy. If there is also chronic inflammation of glands around these inflamed nodes, this is called lymphadenitis.
The common causes of lymphadenopathy are enterovirus, streptococcus, adenovirus, and influenza. The causes of lymphadenitis are tuberculosis, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). As mentioned, painful swollen lymph nodes can also be caused by lymphoma.
When Swollen Neck Lymph Nodes May Mean Cancer
Are you aware of what the difference is between malignant swollen lymph nodes and benign ones? Here are a few factors to take into account.
The lymph nodes usually grow bigger when the cells caught inside them increase and go back to the normal size as that number reduces. However, a lymph node’s normal size is below 1.5 centimetres, or nearly three-quarters of an inch or smaller. Therefore, when this node grows bigger than standard size and continues to grow, you should immediately have a doctor check them out.
Consider Your Age
Lymphoma, or any cancer, is more likely to occur in older people. So, if you are over 40 and have inflamed lymph nodes, it is recommended that you get them checked out.
Do a Manual Check
Press the tip of the nose with your finger and you will get an idea of what a normal lymph node feels like. These tumours tend to become harder and more solid, like what you can feel when you push the chin using a finger.
Check If the Nodes Hurt
It is a misconception that malignant cells hurt. Tenderness may be a sign of infection because the immune system is affected, but swollen lymph nodes caused by lymphoma are generally painless.
Consider Other Symptoms
Other symptoms of swollen lymph nodes caused due to lymphoma are itchiness, swollen skin, and rashes. In more advanced stages, patients experience night sweats, weight loss, tiredness, and fever.
Swollen lymph nodes can cause neck pain. This swelling may be caused by a minor illness or infection and go away when the condition is cured. When you have inflamed lymph nodes that do not go away or seem to grow, contact your healthcare provider. For more information, you may also consult lymphoma support groups or read about the experience of lymphoma patients.