Persistent swollen neck glands could indicate cancer

April 26, 2015

Referring patients with unexplained swollen neck glands for specialist investigations could help to avoid some of the thousands of deaths each year from lymphoma, a type of cancer.

New research led by the University of Exeter Medical School, published today in the British Journal of General Practice, has concluded that persistent enlarged lymph glands, found in the neck, should be referred for further investigation when detected in clinic.

Each year in the UK, more than 14,500 people in are diagnosed with a form of lymphoma, and nearly 5,000 die from the disease, with latest available figures from 1995 to 1999 showing that more than 6,320 deaths were avoidable in this period. The death rate is higher in the UK than the average across Europe. To reverse this trend and improve prospects, earlier diagnosis is key. More than 40 per cent of patients visited their GP with symptoms three or more times before being referred for cancer investigations.

Now, the University of Exeter Medical School has worked with colleagues in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bangor in two associated studies which were funded by NIHR. Both studies concluded that persistent swollen glands indicate a high risk of this type of cancer. This is the first studies to investigate the full risk profile for either type of lymphoma in general practice - where most patients first attend. 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."

Both papers focussed on patients over the age of 40. The first was a large-scale assessment of symptoms which were markers of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, the more prevalent of the two types of lymphoma, with 12,800 new cases diagnosed each year. The team used data from UK primary care patient records from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), and looked at cases diagnosed between January 200 and December 2009. The data provided 4,799 cases, with more than 19,000 controls.

The second study assessed 283 patients over the age of 40 with Hodgkin Lymphoma, comparing them with 1,237 control cases. The findings were remarkably similar in both studies - demonstrating the importance of swollen lymph glands - particularly in the neck. No blood tests were really helpful in confirming or refuting the diagnosis.

Dr Liz Shephard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, was lead author on the study. She said: "Early diagnosis is vital to reducing cancer deaths. We now hope that this research will feed into guidelines to help GPs refer earlier and potentially to save lives."
-end-


University of Exeter

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.