Malignant cancer cells can break away from a tumour and travel through the bloodstream to the lymph system, where they grow and form metastatic lymph nodes that can be felt.
- Sudden appearance without any sign of infection of swollen lymph nodes that don't grow smaller again (remaining enlarged for longer than two weeks)
Metastatic lymph nodes can reach a diameter of several centimetres. They are easy to feel and also visible to the eye in the neck, the armpits and the groin. They are hard, but usually painless.
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Causes and treatment
Metastatic lymph nodes appear sooner or later with every cancer (including leukaemia), as cancer cells travel to lymph nodes in the vicinity, where they start growing.
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Ultrasound (sonography)
- Removal of a tissue sample (biopsy) to examine under a microscope
- Metastatic lymph nodes can be removed by surgery
- Radiation therapy
- Medication (chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy)
- Treatment of the tumour as the cause
Under some circumstances it can also make sense to combine these different forms of therapy. Unfortunately it isn’t always possible to halt the further progression of the disease.
What can I do myself?
- Cancer patients should regularly go to the doctor for a check-up
When to see a doctor?
- Swollen lymph nodes but no infection (in particular if the lymph nodes are hard and painless)
- Swelling that doesn't disappear within two weeks
lymph node metastasis