What are lymph glands?

Lymph nodes, commonly called lymph glands are small normal structures within the body that help filter foreign substances and help fight infection and cancer. They are part of the body’s immune system, sometimes referred to as the lymphatic system.

A systemic problem often causes these lymph nodes to enlarge in size. Enlarged lymph glands can be detected as a swelling in areas where lymph nodes are commonly located.

Location of lymph glands

Lymph nodes are positioned in various areas around the body.  These include commonly where we can feel them in the neck, armpit (axilla) and groin area.  There are other deeper lymph nodes within the body which cannot be felt and these can be seen on radiological investigations.

Lymph nodes on the lymphatic system


Sometimes the only sign or symptoms that you may experience would be a swollen lymph node/swelling in the area where lymph nodes are located such the head, neck or armpits and groin area.  They can present with tenderness, increasing size and swelling.

You may have associated symptoms such as infection, fever, feeling lethargic, night sweats and weight loss.

What to do if you feel a swollen lymph node

You should seek medical advice to assess if you require clinical assessment and further investigation.  Enlarged lymph glands which have continued to be present or enlarging over 2-3 weeks should be considered for clinical assessment and at first an ultrasound scan.  You may require further investigations such as an MRI scan or biopsy to ensure there is nothing serious.

Ask your GP for advice. You will also find useful information on the NHS website. You may be referred by your GP to the Machester Lumps Clinic. For more information, please contact us.