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What is the meaning of "reactive" lymph node?
Apr 6, 2003

I wanted to understand the difference of why a radiologist called something an enlarged "reactive" lymph node instead of just an enlarged lymph node(s).

Here's what the most recent MRI stated:

"There are scattered bilateral submadibular lymph nodes which range in dimension from 5 to 12 mm in the long axis and remain unchanged relative to the previous MRI (3 months ago)."

The conclusion on the MRI of the radiologist was this:

"Small reactive submandibular lymph nodes and normal sized lymph nodes in bilateral jugolodigastric nodal stations remain stable since the prior exam."

Response from Dr. Dezube

Health care professionals, including myself, use the word "reactive" frequently. A "reactive" lymph node is one which is enlarged because it is trying to fight off an infection. The truth is that the only way for one to really know if a lymph node is reactive (enlarging as it's fighting off an infection) or malignant is to biopsy the lymph node. That said, radiologists as well as clinicians see lymph nodes day in and day out. After a while, we get a sense of which lymph nodes are worrisome and which are not. On CT scans, we seldom get excited about lymph nodes less than 1 cm.

So that radiologist is saying that you have scattered bilateral (meaning both sides of your body) and that they look reactive in nature (not malignant). Had he left out the word "reactive" and simply said "small submandibular lymph nodes...", the report would still be the same. All in all, I interpret what you wrote to me as good news.

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