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Cancer

CT scanning

04/19/2007

Question:

What if meant specifically by the phrase "not enlarged by ct criteria"? I have several lymph nodal areas which are being watched by periodic CT scanning.

Answer:

Everyone has numerous lymph nodes just about everywhere in the body. Lymph nodes make antibodies to fight off infections, so sometimes they are enlarged while performing this function (for example, the “glands” in the neck, which are lymph nodes, swell with a cold). Cancer cells also travel to the lymph nodes and can enlarge them.

Usually one doesn’t see normal lymph nodes on CT scans, as they are too small. However, one would expect to see a small increase in lymph node size from an acute or old infection (called reactive lymph nodes). Most of the time, these lymph nodes are less than one centimeter in size; they can be seen on CT scans and often they are not cancerous. These are the lymph nodes that “are not enlarged by CT criteria” for cancer. Most of the time malignant lymph nodes are larger than one centimeter. Periodic CT scans will determine if the reactive lymph nodes are growing, thus making them more suspicious for cancer. Lymph nodes less than one centimeter are generally too small to biopsy, so watching them can be the best course.

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Response by:

Joanna M Brell, MD Joanna M Brell, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University