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One Last Lymph Node Question- this one is about size
Jan 21, 2002

When we are talking about swollen lymph nodes, is there a particular size that they must become in order to be deemed swollen or abnormal? For example, just because someone can feel a cervical lymph node that is about 1/2 cm in size, does that mean it is swollen? Can there be other causes besides serious infections or recent infections?

Response from Dr. Dezube

I'd be pretty naive if I were to believe that this is indeed the last lymph node question. I would also encourage those new to my forum to look at my prior responses to lymph node questions for more details. In terms of size, there is no hard and fast rule by which one can judge the nature of a lymph node by size. HOWEVER, as a soft rule (i.e. a rule which is often broken), lymph nodes which are greater than 2 cm (just under an inch) are more worrisome than lymph nodes less than 2 cm.

More important is the setting in which these lymph nodes appear. If you are having systemic symptoms (fevers, chills, night sweats, weight loss) than the lymph nodes are more worrisome. If lymph nodes are growing or if one is way out of proportion to the others, than this is also worrisome. Most HIV'ers will have enlarged lymph nodes at some point during the course of their infection. A trained health care provider should be able to make a reasonable guess when to follow a lymph node (i.e. to observe it over a period of time) and when to biopsy. The vast majority of lymph nodes are nothing more than the body's attempt to fight off an infection. However, lymph nodes can harbor infection and/or cancer, so one needs to pay attention to lymph nodes that are more worrisome based on the criteria I listed above and in prior responses. BD.


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