What do underarm lymph nodes do? Why do they swell up? And how do you know if the swelling is simply an infection – or might be cancer?
You're taking a shower, soaping up. And suddenly, underneath your arm, your fingers detect a painful, tender lump – one that wasn't there yesterday. Your mind starts to race: "Do I need to worry about this? Could it be an infected lymph node, even though I haven't felt sick? Could it be… cancer?"
What is the lymphatic system?
Your body's lymphatic system, made up of a series of small vessels, carries a clear liquid – lymph – from your body tissues to the heart. In the heart, lymph joins blood and is pumped via arteries back to the tissues. This efficient system helps drain excess liquid from tissues, and transports infection-fighting white blood cells to where they're needed.
What are lymph nodes?
Scattered along these small lymphatic vessels are up to 700 lymph nodes. These small (think...
The lymph nodes reveal information about outlook and they help doctors determine the best types of treatment against the cancer. Your lymph nodes act as filters for your body's lymphatic drainage system. That's why the lymph nodes are likely to "catch" or filter out cancer cells that might be floating in the fluid that drains away from the cancerous area of the breast.
The surgeon will inject a blue dye and a radioactive substance (called a tracer) into the tumor or the skin over the tumor. The first lymph nodes that turn blue and pick up the tracer are called the sentinel (meaning "first") lymph nodes. The lymph node or nodes are then removed and sent to the pathologist, who looks to see if they contain any cancer cells. If no cancer cells are found, then no additional lymph node surgery is done.
If cancer cells are found in the nodes, then more underarm lymph nodes usually need to be removed. This is called an axillary (the armpit area) lymph node dissection (removal). There are thr...
Definition Swollen gums are abnormally enlarged, bulging, or protruding. Alternative Names Swollen gums; Gingival swelling Considerations Gum swelling is quite common and may involve one or many of the triangular-shaped bits of gum between nearby teeth. These sections are called papillae. Occasionally, the gums swell significantly, blocking the teeth completely. Common Causes Gingivitis Infection by a virus or fungus Malnutrition Poorly fitting dentures Pregnancy Sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash Scurvy Side effect of a drug such as Dilantin or phenobarbital
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