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Neck and Head Lymph Nodes

The role of each and every lymph node is to filter the lymph from various parts of the body. Our body contains around 500 to 600 lymph nodes which are localized all over the body.

Cervical or neck lymph nodes are divided into specific groups. Majority of cervical lymph nodes are available for palpation and even the patient may notice if they become enlarged.

The rough division of lymph nodes can be into anterior and posterior group of cervical lymph nodes. The anterior cervical lymph nodes are placed deep inside at the back of the neck and they are in charge of drainage of the throat structures, thyroid gland and tonsils. The posterior cervical lymph nodes are localized at the back of the neck along the front edge of the largest muscles in the neck. They can be palpated by the doctor. Their enlargement is easily noticed even by the patient.

Submandibular lymph nodes are located below the angles of the mandibular bone while a submental lymph node is located below the middle of the mandibular bone. They drain the lymph from the floor of the mouth.

Tonsilar lymph nodes drain tonsils and the back part of the pharynx.

Supraclavicular lymph nodes are located above the collar bone and they can get enlarged in majority of medical conditions, both benign and malignant.

Painful Lymph Nodes of the Neck

If lymph nodes of the neck become enlarged and painful it is definitive that something is going on in a human body. Infections are in majority of cases responsible for enlargement of cervical lymph nodes. Viral infections such as Epstein Bar virus infection can cause huge enlargement of cervical lymph nodes. Cervical lymph nodes may be additionally enlarged in bacterial infection, such as streptococcal angina. Even neglected problems with teeth including cavity may eventually result in enlargement of the neck lymph nodes.

Apart from infections, reaction of the cervical lymph nodes may be connected to certain tumors. Namely, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas regularly lead to enlargement of lymph nodes and cervical lymph nodes are affected in most cases. Cervical lymph nodes may be also enlarged due to secondary spread of the cancer of the oral cavity, throat, thyroid gland or larynx. Even in case of stomach or lung cancer metastases may affect cervical lymph nodes.

Viral and bacterial infections are easily treated. However, if the treatment does not lead to reduction in size of the lymph nodes the doctor may suspect in malignant disease. The patient is further examined. The assessment includes laboratory tests, chest x ray, CT scan of the head and neck and finally MRI of the head and neck. The doctor will perform the biopsy of the enlarged lymph node and the final diagnosis can be set after pathohystological evaluation of the biopted lymph node.

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