Since my Cat scan showed enlarged (7mm) lymph node behind salivary gland and I show no signs of infection (blood test+throat swab) and my ENT said he doesn't think its cancer I would like to know what other conditions could cause this or what other tests would be advisable to confirm or rule out cancer. I can't sit still with a 'I don't think it is cancer let's keep an eye on it' .. this thing is not normal to begin with and in 2 months it has not 'unswollen' so its not a passing thing.
First it is necessary to know if you have any issues related to the lymph node. Was there any other specific reason why the CT was done and if so, was the lymph node was detected as a incidental finding on the CT scan.
Lymph node enlargement is a very common sign and can cause many people to get stressed and lose their sleep. A few major symptoms and danger signs can help you differentiate very common benign conditions and from those indicating conditions like cancer and chronic diseases.
Lymphomas are lymphoid malignancies, which present with multiple and generalized enlargement of lymph nodes all over the body, in the abdominal and chest cavity, enlarged spleen, and / or the bone marrow within the bones. Apart from lymph node enlargement, individuals may have other non specific symptoms like fever and weight loss, loss of appetite, itchiness all over the body, excessive sweating at night, fatigue, weakness, breathlessness along with swelling of the face and neck, etc.
Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, where white blood cells (lymphocytes) mature and undergo clonal multiplication. The lymphocytes are important for fighting the infection and clearing the viruses and bacteria from the body. Hence during any inflammation or infection it is common for the lymph nodes to increase in size and also become a bit tender (pain on application of pressure).
The salivary gland is highly vascular structure and is associated with a group of lymph nodes around it. Hence it is common for lymph nodes to be slightly enlarged within the gland tissue. There is no need to panic at this time, since you do not have any severe symptoms due to the enlarged node. The enlarged node could be just a normal variation which was incidentally detected by the CT scan.
In case, you are still worried and need confirmation, you might consult with your doctor. If deemed necessary, a small surgical procedure can be done to sample the tissue (Fine needle aspiration or a complete excision). A histological examination of this tissue can help to clear all doubts regarding presence of malignancies.
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