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...
Every time I shave my legs, I get itchy, red bumps. How can I get rid of them and how can I prevent them?
In order to take care of shaving-related irritations, it's important to know the underlying cause of inflamed bumps. Razor burn, which results from improper shaving techniques, can create a rash-like appearance that usually fades on its own after a few days. On the other hand, it's possible that those razor bumps are the result of ingrown hairs, which are also referred to as pseudofolliculitis barbae.
When shaving, make sure you use a gentle hand. If your problem is simply razor burn, you need to make a few adjustments to your shaving routine in order to reduce irritation and inflammation. To start, soften the hair by soaking your legs for several minutes in warm water. Invest in a moisturizing shave gel-soap doesn't cut it-and lather the shaving area completely. Let the lather sit on the hair for a minute before proceeding.
Instead of trying to hold on to dis...
You may worry, "What happens if I lose lymph nodes to surgery, or my white count drops dramatically because of chemotherapy? Is my immune system weakened, and will I become vulnerable again to cancer and infection?"
Fortunately, your immune system is very resilient and flexible. Various parts can switch roles and fill in for each other. You also have a considerable reserve or surplus of immune cells and tissues. If some lymph nodes are removed, others take up the load, handling the circulation of lymph fluids and filtering out cancer cells, bacteria, and other unwanted elements. Because you have so many more white blood cells than your body requires, most of the time a reduced number of white blood cells won't put you in any serious danger. New lymphocytes and macrophages can be mobilized in a matter of minutes. However, it is important to be aware of your blood counts.
Blood counts are used to determine any possible damage chemotherapy or radiation has caused to your imm...
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