Swollen Glands: Are They a Sign of Cancer?

April 3, 2023
Swollen Glands: Are They a Sign of Cancer?

Swollen glands can be uncomfortable. Known also as swollen lymph nodes (or lymphadenopathy), these tender pea-sized pieces of tissue can be found in multiple areas of the body. Under the chin, neck, armpits, above the collarbone, or around the groin are common locations.

In most cases, they are a sign of a minor infection such as a cold or glandular fever. They form near the infection site in order to help fight against it. When the glands swell, they work as a filter to trap viruses and bacteria before they spread. White blood cells surround the infection to kill invading organisms. It is an important immune response.

Most of the time, they go away within 2 weeks as the body heals. It’s normal for a cough, sore throat, or high fever to accompany swollen glands.

Swollen Glands in Neck: Should I be Worried?

It is quite common for swollen glands to be found in the neck. Much like a sore throat or cough, it is a good sign that your body is taking care of itself. It is unusual that swollen lymph nodes are connected to more serious diseases. On rare occasions, they can be a sign of lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. In such cases, other symptoms such as chest pain or a lump in your breast have been reported.

Common Illnesses Associated with Swollen Glands

Swollen glands in neck can mean a number of things, such as:

  • A cold
  • Throat infections such as strep throat
  • Ear infection
  • Cellulitis (a skin infection)
  • Sinus Infection
  • The Flu
  • Mononucleosis

Symptoms that Accompany Lymphadenopathy

Along with swollen glands, other common symptoms of lymphadenopathy are:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Painful swallowing
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue

Common Treatments for Swollen Lymph Nodes

If you’re experiencing swollen lymph nodes, your doctor may advise the following treatment options:

  • Get rest
  • Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce swelling

When to Contact Your Doctor

When is it time to contact your doctor? Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Swelling gets worse and glands get bigger after 2 weeks
  • You are having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • You have swollen lymph nodes without other signs of illness
  • If you have sudden weight loss

What is a Swollen Salivary Gland?

Sialadenitis, also known as a swollen salivary gland, is most common in adults over the age of 50. It is also possible for infants a few weeks old or younger, those that are immunocompromised, or those that are recovering from surgery. Most often, they affect individuals who develop salivary gland stones. These stones are made of calcium phosphate and hydroxyapatite and cause pain and swelling in the face.

The function of the salivary gland is to create saliva. This gland helps you swallow, digest food, and protect your teeth from potentially harmful bacteria. When your salivary glands get swollen (often due to inflammation), they can stop functioning.

Sialadenitis mostly affects the parotid gland (in front of each ear) and the submandibular gland (under the tongue on the floor of your mouth). At its most severe, you can lose your ability to swallow or breathe. Contact your primary doctor if you exhibit those symptoms.

Common symptoms of swollen salivary glands (sialolithiasis) are:

  • A peculiar taste in the mouth
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • A painful lump underneath your tongue
  • Pain or swelling underneath your jaw or around your ear
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain while trying to open your mouth

Why Do We Get Sialolithiasis?

There are many reasons why our salivary glands can become swollen. The most commons reasons are:

  • Smoking
  • Radiation therapy, particularly in the mouth
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
  • Extensive dehydration
  • Medications such as diuretics

Common Treatments:

Depending on the severity, size, and location of the problem, there are many treatment options available.

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Applying heat
  • Massaging the area
  • Sucking on sour candy to induce saliva
  • Antibiotics
  • In most serious cases, surgery may be necessary

Contact BASS Cancer Center Today

If you’re worried about your swollen glands and need more information or support, contact BASS Cancer Center today.