CT scan and lymph node detection; is there a size minimum?

Question

I was wondering, besides a biopsy, would a CT scan detect swollen nodes/glands regardless of their size,i.e., do they have to be at a minimum size?

Answer

A CT scan is an excellent way to check for lymph nodes. CT scans can pick up very small lymph nodes. A CT scan, however, can NOT tell whether the lymph node is abnormal or not. Most small nodes (ones measuring just a few millimeters) can be safely ignored. As a rule-of-thumb, health care providers become more concerned when the lymph nodes are 2 centimeters or greater. However this is a general-rule-of-thumb, which means that there can be exceptions. In other words, although a lymph node greater than 2 cm would make me worry, such a lymph node can be completely benign (i.e. not harboring either an infection of cancer). On a similar note, although a lymph node less than 2 cm would make me reassured, such a lymph node can indeed harbor an infection or cancer. A lymph node of any size would be more worrisome if you had systemic symptoms (fever, chills, night sweats, weight loss).