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Warning over swollen neck glands

30 April 2015 08:18

Swollen neck glands could indicate lymphoma

Swollen neck glands could indicate lymphoma

Persistent swollen neck glands could be a sign of cancer, it has been warned.

Researchers say patients with such symptoms should be referred for specialist investigation as soon as possible by their GPs.

Doing so has the potential to avoid some of the thousands of deaths each year from lymphoma, they claim.

Common disease

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, a crucial part of the body's immune system.

While the disease appears in many different forms, they are mainly categorised as Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

It is the most common blood cancer in the UK.

But people diagnosed with the disease can still enjoy holidays to all four corners of the globe thanks to cancer travel insurance.

More than 14,500 people are diagnosed with a form of lymphoma each year, with nearly 5,000 dying from it.

But the latest figures - from 1995 to 1999 - suggest around 6,320 deaths were avoidable in this period.

Researchers are therefore calling for more patients with swollen neck glands to be referred for specialist investigation, claiming over 40% of patients visit their GP with symptoms at least three times before being referred for cancer investigations.

Key studies

Two key studies - one at the University of Exeter Medical School, the other at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bangor - concluded persistently swollen neck glands could indicate a high risk of lymphoma.

The first looked at symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the more prevalent of the two types of lymphoma with 12,800 new cases diagnosed each year, while the other assessed Hodgkin lymphoma.

Both papers focused on patients over the age of 40. The findings were very similar, demonstrating the importance of swollen lymph glands, particularly in the neck.

Swollen glands are common with throat infections - and this is the diagnosis in most cases.

But the researchers are urging people to be aware of larger, painless glands, which they say are associated with cancer.