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Cancer in the Lymph Nodes of the Throat

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/17/2010

Learn about cancer in lymph nodes of throat (or neck). Discover information about this cancer including the symptoms, risks, the diagnostic process used for it, and how it is treated once discovered.

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    About Lymph Nodes

    The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system. These nodes are sometimes mistakenly called ‘glands’. Lymph nodes are found in multiple places throughout the body, including in the neck, groin and armpits.

    The lymphatic system and the lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system. The nodes produce macrophages and antibodies that help to cleanse the body’s cells.

    Cancer in the lymph nodes of throat (or neck) can be treated. Cancer in the lymph nodes can be caused by lymphoma or a cancer that originated elsewhere and spread to the lymph nodes.

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    Symptoms

    According to the Cancer Center, the first symptom of cancer of the lymph nodes in the throat (neck) is the development of a swelling in that area that is painless.

    Other symptoms can appear and they include fatigue, itching, night sweats, fever and an unexplained loss of weight.

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    Diagnosis

    There are multiple methods that can be used to diagnosis cancer in the lymph nodes. These include the use of physical examination, biopsy, imaging, urine test and blood tests.

    A lymph node biopsy can be done through one of several means such as an open biopsy, a fine-needle biopsy and a core needle biopsy. A biopsy can be used not only as a diagnosis tool but as a means to help remove the cancer.

    If cancer is diagnosed, it will be assigned a stage number that is based on how advanced the cancer is as well as how many tumors are present.

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    Treatment

    Which treatment option is available or advised for patients with cancer in the lymph nodes of the neck will depend upon the stage it has been assigned, as well as doctor and patient preference.

    Some treatments offered may be chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, antiangiogenic medications and other drugs. Some of these options may be used together in treatment of the cancer or used together, at different time, as part of an overall treatment plan.

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    Risks

    There are two types of risks involved with this type of cancer. The first is the risk of it spreading. According to Radiologyino.org, “The risk of spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream is closely related to whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, how many nodes are involved, and their location in the neck. The risk is higher if cancer is in lymph nodes in the lower part of the neck rather than only in those located in the upper neck.”

    The second risk factor with this type of cancer is related to treatment. This risk deals with the risks for complications arising from treatment. These complications will vary depending upon what treatment(s) were used and what stage the treated cancer is at. Some of these risks are nausea, sore throat, and dehydration-which can all contribute to the patient not wanting to eat or having extreme difficulty in doing so. This can be helped with medication and assistance from a dietician.

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    References

    Lymph Nodes. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. http://www.cancercenter.com/lymph-nodes.htm#identifying

    Swollen Lymph Nodes. eMedicine. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/swollen_lymph_glands/article_em.htm

    Lymph Node Biopsy. Cancer Treatment. WebMD. Last updated April 29, 2009. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/lymph-node-biopsy

    Head and Neck Cancer. Radiology Info. Reviewed February 10, 2010. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=hdneck