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Oncology (General Cancer)/Neck lymph nodes... do they sound serious?



I'm 28, female.

A week ago I discovered a swelling at the base of my neck, on the left side - it felt quite hard and not very mobile. I had an ultrasound done and it showed a 10mm reactionary looking node on the lateral cervical area. The doctor prescribed me anti-inflammatory medication which I took for 4 days now. The 10mm node seems to have become a little softer and more mobile but did not decrease in size.

What got me concerned though, is that yesterday I've felt this smaller (4mm), rock-hard node(?) a bit lower than the other node. I wouldn't say it's in the supraclavicular fossa, it's still at the base of the neck, about 3cm above the collar bone. It's small, thin but hard and immovable. I thought it might be a small bone but there are no bones there and I have none of that on my right side. It's not easily felt, but it's easier if I lean forward and relax my neck.

I'm extremely scared about cancer... I have not been sick and my blood work which I've had 2 weeks ago is very good. I seem to have IgG antibodies for Cytomegalovirus.

My doctor isn't very concerned but I don't think she was able to palpate the small, harder node.

For the past 1-2 weeks I've had a bit of discomfort in the left side of my abdomen, but I also suffer from anxiety and can't tell which symptoms I have are serious and which are caused by my fears. The doctor palpated my abdomen and spleen and did not find anything wrong.

Do you think I should push for an excisional biopsy on both of these nodes? Could this be lymphoma? Or perhaps another type of cancer? Is there any chance something like this is benign?

I feel okay otherwise, not tired, or anything. But extremely apprehensive.

Thank you for any help!

Reactive lymph nodes are common in your age.  They tend to be firm, not particularly tender, and moveable.  They don't change much, except perhaps to soften or shrink a little.  A lot of young people have such nodes in the groins.  That being said, lymphomas and Hodgkin's disease are both possibilities.  At your age, if all you have are these nodes, you don't lose anything by waiting a bit;  if they get larger, than by all means get a biopsy; if they stay the same don't worry. Given your description and age I wouldn't be concerned about cancer  as such.  (Obviously if still more nodules pop up, then I would get a biopsy.)  Modern treatment for Hodgin's disease and other Lymphomas is very good, and cure is likely, should you have one of these.  Unless the disease gets out of the lymph nodes and invades something else, the cure rate does not change even if the nodes grow a little.  
Examine the nodes about once a month, no more often; put it on your schedule.  If they increase in size by 25% or more, then see your doctor again.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

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