Lymph node swellings can be felt in the groin, in the neck and in the armpit. Less common areas where a lymph node swelling can be felt include the front of the elbow and behind the knee. Causes of lymph node swellings include infection, inflammation and cancer.
The person will usually complain of a lump or a cluster of lumps felt beneath the skin. The lump may be tender to touch or it may be painless. The doctor will take a detailed history from you. He will also ask if you have been experiencing symptoms like fever, night sweats and lethargy. The doctor will also examine you, and if he determines the lump to be a lymph node swelling, he will examine the areas around the lymph node, looking for cuts, ulcers or an abnormal mole.
The doctor may also examine areas where lymph nodes can be found, such as the neck, armpits and groins. He may also examine the abdomen. This is to establish if the person has a generalized lymph node swelling or just a localized lymph node swelling.
Lymph node swelling that occurs because of an infection is usually obvious, e.g. sore throat, running nose, or a bad cut or wound over the arm or leg. In such cases, the lymph node swelling is usually tender to touch. Once the infection subsides, the lymph node swelling will usually resolve by itself.
However, you should seek medical advice when the swelling is noted to be persistent, when there are multiple swellings or if there is more than one area affected, or when other swellings, lumps or ulcers are noted elsewhere in the body. You should also seek medical advice if you have a persistent fever, or a general feeling of being unwell for more than a few weeks.
Surgical removal is the definitive treatment. If the lipoma is small, removal can be performed as a simple day-surgery procedure under local anaesthesia. Sometimes, some patients may come to us with a huge lipoma, which can be more than 20cm in diameter. For such large lumps, it is sometimes more comfortable for the patient to have the lump removed under general anaesthesia.
Treatment of lymph node swelling due to an acute infection is usually with antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms. If there is a suspicion of a cancer, further investigations may need to be done to determine the nature of the cancer. The doctor will need to determine if the cancer is arising from the lymph node itself (lymphoma), or if the lymph node represents spread of cancer from somewhere else. Occasionally, a biopsy may need to be performed.
There is no specific cause for this tumour to form. Some cases may run in the family where affected individuals often have multiple lipomata (plural form of lipoma) found beneath the skin over the trunk and limbs.