How to check your lymph nodes
You have been diagnosed with a skin cancer that on occasions can spread into the lymphatic system. That is why as part of your examination your lymph nodes are examined by your doctor or Skin Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist at follow-up appointments. The lymph nodes examined depend on the location of your skin cancer e.g. if your skin cancer was on your leg then the lymph nodes in your inguinal area (groin) will be felt or if on your face then the nodes in the head and neck would be examined. The aim is to detect any enlargement of the lymph nodes and undertake investigation at an early stage. Some people express a interest in knowing which lymph nodes to examine and how to undertake this procedure between clinic appointments.
The Lymphatic System
This system consists of lymphatic vessels and tissue which drains lymph fluid from the tissues of the body, helping to protect you from infection and disease. Lymph nodes are small oval lumps of lymphatic tissue found at certain parts of the body.
These lymph nodes filter out bacteria and disease cells from the lymphatic fluid before it is returned to the blood stream. Lymph nodes can only be felt in the areas shown in the diagram.
Usually lymph nodes are not enlarged and thus not able to be felt, but if you have previously had an infection (such as tonsillitis) you may have noticed and felt lymph node becoming enlarged, painful and tender. Lymph nodes can also become enlarged due to cancer cells lodging in them.
Your doctor or nurse will show you which lymph nodes to check and how to check.
There is also a YouTube video which illustrates this, which you may find beneficial.
How often should I check my lymph nodes?
Checking the lymph nodes once a month is sufficient and this can be done at the same time as you check your skin for any changing moles. Checking them more often may result in difficulty noticing any change.
Do not panic if you feel a lymph node, as it may be due to an infection but if it has not gone in a week contact your doctor or clinical nurse specialist.
If you have any concerns or feel you have detected enlarged lymph nodes. Contact your Skin Cancer Nurse Specialist.