Does Swollen Lymph Nodes Indicate Breast Cancer
It is understandable for someone to panic if they notice something unusual in their body. For example, the sudden appearance of lumps that seem to have no known cause would make anybody panic for their life. It is a normal reaction of a human being because that is how scared we are of getting a possible severe illness are some of us may just love themselves so much that they worry even by the slightest change in their body.
However, no matter how serious it sounds, the lump is not necessarily an indication of an existing malignant disease. Rather, a thorough examination and a series of tests may help identify if a lump is dangerous or not. And to somehow give light to stop generalizing lumps as related to cancer, there is a specific system in the body that is responsible for most of the lumps that appear involuntarily in our bodies – the lymphatic system.
The Lymphatic System And The Swollen Lymph Nodes
The immune system does not work by itself to maintain the body’s immune support and function, it needs the help of a subsystem too. This subsystem, called the lymphatic system, works similarly to the cardiovascular system. Both have the same process which includes liquid flowing in the form of vessels, but instead of passing through veins, the liquid in the lymphatic system passes through several tissues all over the body. Also, if the cardiovascular system carries blood throughout the body, the lymphatic system carries the liquid substance called lymph. To easily describe what lymph is, just imagine the circulation of blood, because that is how the lymphatic fluid flows within the body just the same.
The following are the main functions of the lymphatic system:
- Balance is important within the body, and this is what the lymphatic system does. It helps in maintaining the stability of the liquids found in blood and tissues, resulting in an equilibrium of fluids or specifically called fluid homeostasis.
- As a part of the immune system, the lymphatic system helps fight off invasive organisms like bacteria before they affect the body and cause an infection.
- The lymphatic system also contributes to a specific function in the digestive system which is absorbing nutrients from fats. This is important since not all components found in the body can digest fat-soluble nutrients.
Once a person gets an infection, they may notice a sudden appearance of a lump or lumps in specific areas of the body. As an example, an individual with a throat infection may feel a small swelling bulge somewhere near the throat. This occurrence is common, because it is a part of the circulatory process done by the lymphatic system, and also as an indication to tell the body it is infected. The swelling part is not the lump that we are afraid of, they are what we call lymph nodes, and they turn into lumps, because of the trapped lymph fluid. Sometimes, the bacteria causing the infection may buildup in the lymph nodes too, thus resulting in the swelling. Other possible causes of swollen lymph nodes are immune system cells and trapped microorganisms.
There are 600 lymph nodes all over the body, and they are all scattered everywhere. But the most common lymph nodes are found on the jaw, the armpits, and somewhere in the groin. As you may notice how doctors usually massage a patient’s lower jaw, to have an initial checking of the patient’s lymph nodes and if they are swollen so they can immediately have an idea in case of the presence of an infection.
Since swollen lymph nodes in the human body’s way to show a sign of infection or irregularity, it is not that big of an issue most of the time, especially if the swelling disappears after a short while. However, if the lymph node remains swollen for longer than expected, it is already a cause for concern. Additionally, swollen lymph nodes that are associated with other medical issues such as fever, breathing difficulties, problems with swallowing, and the like are better off checked by a medical professional. That is because they may be caused by an underlying and more serious medical condition – like the possibility of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer and Swollen Lymph Nodes
Before discussing how swollen lymph nodes are associated with breast cancer, let us first get to know how people acquire breast cancer and what the other symptoms of the disease are.
Breast cancer is a dreadful illness that can affect both men and women, but most of the time it is the female population that is more affected. The cancer cells in the breast are produced by an abnormal mutation of the genes responsible for cell growth in the body. Because the mutations are not done with the usual process in the normal development of cells, they become bad cells or cancer cells. Once cancer cells are inside the body, it will be a race with time, because they tend to spread fast all over the body, and one of their common pathways for the invasion is the lymph nodes. Thus, the possibility of swollen lymph nodes and how they may be a symptom of breast cancer. The cancer cells may cause swelling of lymph nodes on the breast area, but it is not always the case for everyone; which is why more accurate tests like mammograms must be conducted to assure that the results are indeed correct.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer:
- A swollen lymph node on the breast area may be an indication of the presence of breast cancer, but by touching the swollen area is not enough unless a test is conducted.
- Breast pain may also be a sign of breast cancer, but it is not always the same since there are several causes of breast pain.
- The color of the breast becomes that of the shade of red. Or reddish patches may appear all of a sudden.
- The breast (or both breasts) itself may swell or turn into a particular shape or size. It is easier to notice if it is only one breast since you can compare it to the other one.
- The nipples start to release a discharge that is not milk. It may either be blood or any other unusual discharge.