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Alex asked...

Swollen glands

For the past nine months, I've had a constant obsession with myself. I'd felt a swollen gland on my neck and since then I've also experienced a variety of other symptoms. I've felt several other glands all over my body - some very hard and fixed, some not. For instance, I felt two incredibly hard glands (I'm assuming) on my skull which cannot be moved, but haven't grown since noticing them a couple of days ago. I've seen my GP twice and I intend to see him again in the next couple of weeks, but both times he's assured me it's nothing to worry about. I've been a complete wreck over the past 9 months now and have been feeling abdominal pain, swollen glands etc - the works - and I'm absolutely convinced there's something physically wrong with me and I fear the worst (the big C). I feel that I cannot be put at ease by my GP and both times he's seemed absolutely confident that everything is absolutely fine, and I feel that the only way I can be assured is by having some kind of blood test or biopsy. I've had neither so far. When I'm not working, I'm a complete mess and spend at least an hour a day looking up symptoms, looking up how long it takes Cancer to kill etc. Am I going completely insane or is there a real reason to be worried about these hard and fixed glands - something my GP has assured me causes no concern from his point of view?

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The answer

Lymph glands can swell periodically and become tender to touch when your body is fighting off infection or inflammation somewhere within the body and then go back to normal size once infection has resolved. The ones you can occasionally feel are located under the jaw area, under the arms and in the groin area – they are also all in the abdomen, but these ones you are not usually able to feel. There are no glands on the skull, so the hard fixed lumps you described may well be bone.

Given your continuing concerns, it seems reasonable to ask for a second opinion. If your fears of cancer remain, you could discuss a blood test with your GP, CEA 125, which can indicate the presence of cancer within the body but is not conclusive. Given the symptoms you describe, it is unlikely that any doctor would perform an invasive procedure like a lymph node biopsy.

If your anxiety and is distracting you from enjoying everyday life, then we would also suggest discussing referral to a counsellor with your GP, where they can look at ways to help you manage this.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses

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