Lymph nodes: Definition, Location, Functions and Associated Diseases

They are oval or reniform structures (kidney-shaped).

Lymph nodes are known as lymph nodes and are the swollen glands that people may notice in their neck when they are battling a cold or sore throat.

Not all lymph nodes are “palpable,” which means that you cannot feel all the lymph nodes in the body.

Lymph nodes are small “masses” of tissue found along the lymphatic vessels of the body. They can be compared to stations located along the lymphatic highway.

These highways are the pathways that the immune response uses to inspect the body, similar to how the blood system carries oxygen and nutrients to the human body.


The best known lymph nodes are those that are located in the neck, but these nodes are located throughout the body.

Examples of terms used to describe some of the lymph node or lymph node locations include:

Cervical lymph nodes

These are the nodes that are felt in the neck when you have a cold.

The lymph nodes closest to the front of the neck are known as the anterior cervical lymph nodes, and they are the nodes that most people have felt at some point.

Behind these are the posterior cervical lymph nodes, and at the base of the skull, at the back of the neck, as the occipital lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes in these last two regions often become inflamed when people develop infectious mononucleosis .

Axillary lymph nodes

The term axillary lymph nodes refers to the lymph node in the armpits.

These are the lymph nodes that support the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Supraclavicular lymph nodes

These lymph nodes can be felt when enlarged, just above the clavicle.

Most of the time, enlargement of these lymph nodes means a serious underlying problem, and they should always be evaluated.

Mediastinal lymph nodes

These lymph nodes are found in the mediastinum, which is the area in the center of the chest, between the lungs.

People cannot feel these lymph nodes, but imaging studies are often done to evaluate these nodes for conditions such as lung cancer and lymphoma.

Inguinal lymph nodes

Inguinal lymph nodes are present in the groin region.

Since they drain the tissues from the feet to the groin, there are many reasons why these lymph nodes can become inflamed.

Most of the time, they swell after a leg injury or infection, but they can also be a sign of something from a sexually transmitted disease to cancer.

Keep in mind that most people experience swollen groin nodules at some point, and the vast majority of the time they are not a problem; they are just doing their job of catching viruses, bacteria, or some other microorganism that enters the body from a wound on the feet or legs.

Retroperitoneal lymph nodes

These lymph nodes are found deep in the abdomen and can only be seen on imaging studies.

Mesenteric lymph nodes

These lymph nodes are similar to the retroperitoneal nodes, which are found deep in the abdomen.

Pelvic lymph nodes

Unlike inguinal lymph nodes, pelvic lymph nodes are located deep in the pelvis and can only be seen on imaging studies.

Lymph node function

Lymph nodes function as “sieves” or more like security guards to filter bacteria, viruses, parasites, other foreign materials, and even cancer cells from the body.

This is why lymph nodes are tested in people with cancer, as this is the first place where cancer cells can be “trapped” as they move through the body.

Conditions involving lymph nodes

There are many conditions in which the lymph nodes become involved.

Doctors use the term “lymphadenopathy” to describe the inflammation or swelling of these glands.

Some of the possible causes of enlarged lymph nodes include:


Since the lymph nodes store the white blood cells that are the body’s first line of defense, they are often enlarged due to infections.

Lymph node enlargement with an infection can be good or bad.

It’s good in the sense that they are the power plants that store immune cells.

In other words, enlarged lymph nodes may mean that the body’s immune system is doing its job to resolve an infection.

Tonsils are similar to immune tissue, for a long time it was thought that removing the tonsils would help prevent strep throat.

It is true that if an infection has severely damaged the glands, removing them is a good idea.

But it was also found that removing the tonsils could lead to infections in the future. What the doctors were doing was eliminating the first functional place where bacteria travel.


Lymph nodes are enlarged when a person has cancer and this may be related to a blood cancer, such as lymphoma, or due to other cancers in the body that have spread.

Cancer can spread both through the bloodstream and through the lymphatic channels.

When a cancer begins to spread, it usually travels to nearby lymph nodes first.

Determining which lymph node contains cancer cells helps doctors determine the stage of a cancer, that is, how far the cancer has spread, and then they can choose the best treatment.


Since the lymph nodes are the resting points for the white blood cells that clean the trauma site, it is often enlarged when injury occurs.

The lymph nodes are a station that acts upon the appearance of some foreign agent, activating the body’s immune system as a defense mechanism.