The six things you need to know about swollen lymph nodes right now

Lymph nodes are found all over the body and are typically pea shaped, but you’re likely to be reading this article because you’ve searched for swollen lymph nodes or swollen glands as they’re sometimes more commonly referred to.

To turn the words in this article into a video, we have used AI technology. 

In the vast majority of cases, swollen lymph nodes are a sign of a simple infection such as tonsilitis or they could even be raised because you have a cold. Lymph nodes are also a warning light to us, warning us that something is up with our bodies. 


Around 20% of leukaemia patients report that they had swollen glands before being diagnosed with leukaemia – so here are six things you need to know about swollen lymph nodes. 


  1. Swollen lymph nodes should disappear within two weeks when fighting off a normal infection. Anything longer than this should warrant a visit to the Doctor for the once over
  2. Painless swollen lymph nodes are actually something that should be checked out – swollen glands which are painful, red, tender or warm actually indicate an infection of the node itself. Painless swellings like this should always be checked out with a GP to check why they have swollen and whether it needs further investigation. As with all these things, there are always cases where painful lymph nodes have ALSO been a sign of leukaemia or lymphoma, and in those cases, the node has grown so large that it is pressing down on nerves, causing the pain. If you’re worried about it enough to search on the internet, see a medical professional
  3. During an infection, a lymph node will grow from pea sized to up to half an inch in diameter. Anything larger than this should be inspected by a GP. 
  4. Can’t figure out why your lymph nodes are enlarged? If you have no other sign of illness or infection you should make that appointment and discuss with a healthcare professional
  5. Do the lymph nodes move freely if you push them or are they hard and unmovable? Apart from being painless and abnormally large, swollen lymph nodes in leukaemia or lymphoma tend to feel quite similar to infected lymph nodes. However, occasionally they can feel very hard and cannot be moved when pushed. Healthy lymph nodes are more rubbery than the surrounding tissue but are not solid like stone. Any lumps on the neck, groin or armpits that are hard, very enlarged, and do not move when pushed may indicate lymphoma or another type of cancer and should be investigated by your GP.
  6. Swollen lymph nodes can present with other symptoms which would indicate you may have leukaemia. These symptoms include the following: night sweats, persistent fever (more than 3-4 days), unexplained weight loss, fatigue or unusual bruising and bleeding visit your doctor immediately.


It is important not to self-diagnose. Not every person with swollen lymph nodes requires immediate evaluation by a doctor and, if you have swollen lymph nodes, you shouldn’t immediately expect cancer, as this is unlikely to be the cause.

However, make sure to visit your doctor if you feel that the lymph nodes in your neck or armpits are protruding more than usual, are painless or have lasted longer than you would expect. Sometimes infections such as tonsillitis, ear or throat infections do require a visit to the GP if they are particularly bad. You might be prescribed antibiotics, however, make sure to return to the GP if your symptoms do not get better.

Knowing what other symptoms are typical of leukaemia is crucial for helping you make the decision to visit your GP sooner for a blood test. Connect the dots between the symptoms of leukaemia and spot leukaemia sooner. Tell your GP about how you are feeling and request an urgent blood test. 




For Healthcare Professionals

Leukaemia Care works with a variety of different healthcare professionals, from consultant haematologists, GPs, Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) and clinical psychologists.

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