Lymph nodes are located within the lymphatic system in the body and are commonly referred to as "glands.' These tiny masses are lymphatic tissues that are surrounded by other connective tissue. The main function of lymph nodes is to filter out lymphatic fluid and retain healthy cells that are responsible for the detection and rejection of cases such as cancer or bacteria that may be trying to make its way throughout the body. The lymph nodes are a large part of the lymphatic system responsibilities but also works hand in hand with the immune system. It is common for doctors to check for swollen 'glands' during a routine physical to determine whether or no there are certain areas of the body that could be in question. The main locations that a doctor performs these types of checkups are around the neck, under the armpit and in the abdominal area.
When fighting off infection, it is often common that these nodes become swollen or inflamed. Their main focus when this happens is to fight off the bacteria that could be trying to invade the body as well as protect the healthy white blood cells that are still present. Lymph nodes have also been known to swell because of a condition of forming abscesses. These cloisters of pus are can be within the nodes around the body.
The different stages of cancer are often determined by whether or not the lymph nodes actually contain cancer cells. This is crucial in the portion of diagnosis, finding proper treatment and developing a prognosis. Often times, severe cancers such as mesothelioma are not detected until later stages and will require more aggressive forms of mesothelioma treatment. When finding cancerous cells in lymph nodes, it is almost certain that prognosis does not look positive for the patient. It is difficult to determine which treatment is best for those who develop cancer within their lymphatic system. Doctors try to eliminate these types of inflammations through surgery, although it simply alleviates the pain rather than taking out the cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, how severe it is and where it has spread through the body, the doctor may determine that he or she is able to remove portions of the cancer to make the patient more comfortable as they undergo different treatments.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.