Patients With Persistent Lymphadenopathy At Highest Risk Of Developing Cancer

Early reporting of lymphadenopathy, a condition of unexplained swollen neck glands, could lower, or even eliminate mortality in Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to recent collaborative research carried out by a group of scientists at The Universities of Exeter, Oxford, Cambridge and Bangor.

Two previous studies published in the British Journal of General Practice pertaining to patients with both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, comparing them to healthy controls, were closely studied by the group of researchers. Datasets with the necessary details of clinical conditions and symptoms presented by patients undergoing treatment for lymphomas in primary care were studied as well.

Patients over 60 years of age with swollen lymph nodes (lymphadeopathy) and masses in any part of the body were considered to be under the highest risk of lymphoma, and waiting for the conventional six weeks for reporting such cases was not advisable. According to the study authors, persisting lymphadenopathy, especially in the neck region was a cause of great concern and demanded immediate attention of physicians and general practitioners and if needed, specialists.

The main observation from both studies was the fact that swollen lymph nodes anywhere in the body, especially in the neck, indicated the highest risk of a person developing Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in primary care. It was observed that around 40% of the patients with these kinds of symptoms often consulted their general practitioners thrice or more than that, before being referred for cancer specialists, indicating some concern among the general public in terms of awareness.

Professor Willie Hamilton, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who oversaw the study, said: “Cancer guidelines are based on the most robust evidence, and up to now this has been missing. Our research has revealed the importance of persistent swollen lymph glands, particularly in the neck, as part of cancer. Of course swollen glands are common with throat infections, but in cancer, they are usually larger and painless. It’s been known for a long time that this could represent cancer – this study shows that the risk is higher than previously thought.”

Dr. Liz Shephard, who led both studies, added, “Early diagnosis is vital to reducing cancer deaths. We now hope that this research will feed into guidelines.”

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