Enlarged Lymph Nodes In the Armpit (Axilla) On One Side On CT

Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit on one side means that they are reacting to an infection or other illness.  We can see lymph node enlargement on CT, but can not always determine the cause.


What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes contain immune cells and help protect your body from infection, abnormal diseased cells or foreign substances.  Lymph nodes enlarge when they are fighting infection or other illness.

Finding swollen or enlarged lymph nodes means the gland is active in doing it’s job.  Often the swollen glands will be near the process causing them, but in some cases it may be a problem throughout your body.

What do enlarged axillary lymph nodes look like on CT scan?

They usually measure greater then 1 cm on the shortest side.  They may have an abnormal appearance.  There may be more lymph nodes in the armpit then expected.

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes causes

Some common causes of enlarged lymph nodes are infections such as those with bacteria or viruses.

A systemic condition like lupus or HIV can cause lymph node enlargement.  

Any cancers that spread can cause lymph nodes to swell.  A primary cancer of the lymphatic system is called lymphoma.

In the arm pit, the most concerning condition would be cancer.  This can be cancer spread from other parts of your body like the breast or a primary cancer like lymphoma.

Infections of the breast or arm can also cause the lymph nodes to enlarge.

Certain systemic conditions will cause enlarged lymph nodes but these will be more widespread.

Do enlarged lymph nodes mean cancer?

No.  Lymph nodes can enlarge from many causes.  Cancer is one possibility.

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes symptoms

The lymph nodes may be tender to touch or painful.  You may have symptoms related to the underlying condition causing the lymph node enlargement.

For example, fever, fatigue, and unintentional weight loss may be seen with a systemic condition or cancer.  Enlarged lymph nodes may mean spread of cancer when you feel a breast mass.

When should I be concerned about a swollen axillary lymph node?

Lymph nodes which enlarge for no reason and don’t go away.  The lymph nodes feel hard and don’t move when you push on them.

Can enlarged axillary lymph nodes be normal?

Enlarged lymph nodes are usually a sign that your body is fighting an infection or illness.  This can be anything from a minor infection to cancer.

What is the best treatment for axillary lymph nodes?

The best treatment is treating the underlying condition that is causing the lymph nodes to swell.  For example, antibiotics may be needed for an infection.  Treating the underlying cancer will cause the lymph nodes to shrink.

How will the cause of the lymph node enlargement be determined?

Your doctor will best determine the cause of the enlargement by taking a careful history and examining the area.

It will be more concerning for cancer if no infection or inflammatory condition is found or if the lymph nodes have been growing over time.  A biopsy may be needed to determine the cause.

If you have a history of a cancer elsewhere in the body, then cancer becomes more concerning.

What further testing may be needed for enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit?

Further testing may include non invasive imaging like a PET scan.  Abnormal cancerous lymph nodes will often light up more on this test then inflamed nodes.   There is however overlap between the appearance of inflamed and cancerous nodes.  A PET scan can also tell us if there is cancer somewhere else in the body.

Your doctor may order a CT scan of your body to make sure there are no other suspicious areas.  A biopsy will allow for the most accurate diagnosis since this will allow Us to see the actual cells involved.

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes on one side: summary

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes on one side means that they are reacting to an infection or other illness.  A careful clinical evaluation, further imaging and biopsy may be needed to determine the underlying cause.



Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

Similar Posts