Normal Size Of Breast Lymph Nodes - Rxharun

Normal Size Of Breast Lymph Nodes

A normal or benign-appearing axillary lymph node should have an oval or lobulated shape and a smooth, well-defined margin. The lobulated shape is because of concurrent constrictions and bulges of both the cortex and fatty hilum. The cortex should be slightly hypoechoic and uniformly thin, measuring 3 mm or less


The axillary lymph nodes are arranged in six groups:

  • Anterior (pectoral) group: Lying along the lower border of the pectoralis minor behind the pectoralis major, these nodes receive lymph vessels from the lateral quadrants of the breast and superficial vessels from the anterolateral abdominal wall above the level of the umbilicus.
  • Posterior (subscapular) group: Lying in front of the subscapularis muscle, these nodes receive superficial lymph vessels from the back, down as far as the level of the iliac crests.
  • Lateral group: Lying along the medial side of the axillary vein, these nodes receive most of the lymph vessels of the upper limb (except those superficial vessels draining the lateral side—see infraclavicular nodes, below).
  • Central group: Lying in the center of the axilla in the axillary fat, these nodes receive lymph from the above three groups.
  • Infraclavicular (deltopectoral) group: These nodes are not strictly axillary nodes because they are located outside the axilla. They lie in the groove between the deltoid and pectoralis major muscles and receive superficial lymph vessels from the lateral side of the hand, forearm, and arm.
  • Apical group: Lying at the apex of the axilla at the lateral border of the 1st rib, these nodes receive the efferent lymph vessels from all the other axillary nodes.

The apical nodes drain into the subclavian lymph trunk. On the left side, this trunk drains into the thoracic duct; on the right side, it drains into the right lymphatic duct. Alternatively, the lymph trunks may drain directly into one of the large veins at the root of the neck.[rx]

Enlarged Axillary Lymph Nodes and Breast Cancer

Approximately 75 percent of the lymph found in the breasts drain into the axillary lymph nodes. As such, the detection of enlarged axillary lymph nodes, especially nodes that are hard to the touch, can play an important factor in the diagnosis, and staging, of breast cancer.

Not all cases of breast cancer result in enlarged axillary lymph nodes. However, the observation of enlarged axillary lymph nodes is a strong signal that breast cancer may be at a more advanced stage. The detection of cancer in the lymph nodes is one of three central determinants breast cancer doctors consider to evaluate the stage of a breast cancer tumor(s). The other two are the size of breast cancer tumor and whether it has spread to other areas of the body.

There are five options to categorize the influence of breast cancer in the axillary lymph nodes:

  • NX: lymph nodes cannot be clinically evaluated.
  • N0: no identifiable cancer in the axillary lymph nodes.
  • N1: cancer is present in the axillary lymph nodes. However, it is not attached to the chest wall or between different axillary lymph nodes.
  • N2: cancer is identified in the axillary lymph nodes. Cancer has linked between different axillary lymph nodes and/or the chest wall.
  • N3: in addition to N2, cancer has spread above and below the collarbone.

To clarify the axillary lymph node status a sentinel node biopsy may be performed. This is a surgical technique that injects a radioactive blue dye into the site of the breast cancer tumor. The dye helps surgeons identify the closest lymph nodes to the breast cancer site.

  • The axillary lymph nodes nearest to the breast cancer site are removed and biopsied for cancer.
  • If cancer is not detected the remaining axillary lymph nodes are not removed.
  • If cancer is detected additional axillary lymph nodes are removed and biopsied.
  • Increased size of one or more lymph nodes. Most are in the neck.
  • Also, includes swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or groin
  • It’s larger than the same node on the other side of the body
  • Normal nodes are usually less than ½ inch (12 mm) across. This is the size of a pea or baked bean.
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Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

  • Neck Nodes. The cervical (neck) nodes are most commonly involved. This is because of the many respiratory infections that occur during childhood.
  • Viral Throat Infection. This is the most common cause of swollen nodes in the neck. The swollen nodes are usually ½ to 1 inch (12 -25 mm) across. They are the same on each side.
  • Bacterial Throat Infection. A swollen node with a bacterial throat infection is usually just on one side. It can be quite large; over 1 inch (25 mm) across. This is about the size of a quarter. Most often, it’s the node that drains the tonsil.
  • Tooth Decay or Abscess. This causes a swollen, tender node under the jawbone. Only one node is involved. The lower face may also be swollen on that side.
  • Armpit Swollen Nodes. Causes include skin infections (such as impetigo). A rash (such as poison ivy) can do the same.
  • Groin Swollen Nodes. Causes include skin infections (such as athlete’s foot). A retained foreign object (such as a sliver) can be the cause.
  • Shaving. Teen girls can cause low-grade infections when shaving the legs.
  • Widespread Swollen Nodes. Swollen nodes everywhere suggest an infection spread in the blood. An example is infectious mono. Widespread rashes such as eczema can also cause all the nodes to enlarge.
  • Normal Nodes. Lymph nodes can always be felt in the neck and groin. They are about the size of a bean. They never go away.

Lymph Nodes: What They Drain

  • The lymph nodes are filled with white blood cells. They filter the lymph fluid coming from certain parts of the body. They fight infections.
  • Neck Nodes in Front. These drain the nose, throat and lower face.
  • Neck Nodes in Back. These drain the scalp.
  • Armpit Nodes. These drain the arms and upper chest wall.
  • Groin Nodes. These drain the legs and lower stomach wall.

Common Objects Used to measure the Size

  • Pea or pencil eraser: ¼ inch or 6 mm
  • Dime: ¾ inch or 1.8 cm
  • Quarter: 1 inch or 2.5 cm
  • Golf ball: 1 ½ inch or 3.8 cm
  • Tennis Ball: 2 ½ inches or 6.4 cm


Lymph nodes are present throughout the body, are more concentrated near and within the trunk, and are divided into groups.[rx] There are about 450 lymph nodes in the adult.[rx] Some lymph nodes can be felt when enlarged (and occasionally when not), such as the axillary lymph nodes under the arm, the cervical lymph nodes of the head and neck, and the inguinal lymph nodes near the groin crease. Most lymph nodes lie within the trunk adjacent to other major structures in the body – such as the paraaortic lymph nodes and the tracheobronchial lymph nodes. The lymphatic drainage patterns are different from person to person and even asymmetrical on each side of the same body.[rx][rx]

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There are no lymph nodes in the central nervous system, which is separated from the body by the blood-brain barrier. Lymph from the meningeal lymphatic vessels in the CNS drains to the deep cervical lymph nodes.[rx]

Normal Lyphnode in an adult person

A normal axillary breast lymph node should have an oval or lobulated shape and a smooth, well-defined margin. The lobulated shape is because of concurrent constrictions and bulges of both the cortex and fatty hilum. The cortex should be slightly hypoechoic and uniformly thin, measuring 3 mm or less

The upper limit of lymph node sizes in adults
Axillary or breast3 mm or less
Inguinal10– 20 mm
Pelvis10 mm for ovoid lymph nodes, 8 mm for rounded[rx]
Generally (non-retropharyngeal)10 mm
Jugulodigastric lymph nodes11mm or 15 mm
Retropharyngeal8 mmLateral retropharyngeal: 5 mm
Mediastinum, generally10 mm
Superior mediastinum and high paratracheal7mm
Low paratracheal and subcarinal11 mm
Upper abdominal
Retrocrural space6 mm
Paracardiac8 mm
Gastrohepatic ligament8 mm
Upper paraaortic region9 mm
Portacaval space10 mm
Porta hepatis7 mm
Lower paraaortic region11 mm

Normal and abnormal IMLN (intramammary lymph node) of breast

SHAPEOvoid or reniformRound or lobulated
MARGINSCircumscribedNot circumscribed
SIZELess than 1 cmMore than 1 cm
HILAR FATPresent may be pronouncedAbsent or eccentric
PARTICULARITIESUsually adjacent to a veinSignificant alteration in size or morphology at follow-up

Enlarged Lymph Nodes for axillary

The axillary (armpit) lymph nodes filter and/or trap lymph from the arm, chest wall, and breast. It is often difficult to feel normal axillary lymph nodes. Not all enlarged axillary lymph nodes feel the same. It is also important to mention that enlarged axillary lymph nodes are not necessarily a sign of cancer. However, we strongly advise you to consult with a medical provider if you are concerned about enlarged axillary lymph nodes.

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes may stem from a range of causes. If a patient does not have cancer, some of the local, non-cancerous causes of enlarged axillary lymph nodes include:

  • An injury to the armpit, arm, or hand (almost always non-cancerous).
  • Localized infection or hidradenitis.
  • Brucellosis (also known as Undulant fever, Malta fever and/or Mediterranean fever): a bacterial disease picked up from contact with dogs, cows, goats, pigs, or other mammals. Brucellosis can be contracted by consuming unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Cat Scratch Disease: cats infected with bartonellahenselae can transfer the bacteria to humans by piercing their skin (bite or scratch). The illness may result in fatigue, a fever, headache(s), and a loss of appetite. Most of the time the body can expunge the infection without medical treatment.
  • Silicone breast implants: a reaction by the lymphatic system to the placement of a foreign substance (including the small possibility of a silicone leak).

Systematic, non-cancerous causes of enlarged axillary lymph nodes include:

  • Viral infections: mononucleosis, chicken pox, measles, HIV/AIDS and others.
  • Bacterial: tuberculosis, etc.
  • Fungal.
  • Temporary side effects from a vaccination.

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes can be a symptom of the following local or metastasized (systematic) cancer maladies:

  • A tumor in or near the axillary lymph node.
  • Leukemia.
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
  • Melanoma.
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When to Call for Lymph Nodes – Swollen

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • The node in the neck causes trouble with breathing, swallowing or drinking
  • Fever over 104° F (40° C)
  • The skin over the node is red
  • Node gets much bigger over 6 hours or less
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • 1 or more inches (2.5 cm or more) in size by measurement
  • Very tender to the touch
  • Age less than 3 months old
  • Node limits moving the neck, arm or leg
  • Toothache with a swollen node under the jawbone
  • Fever lasts more than 3 days
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • In the neck and also has a sore throat
  • Large nodes at 2 or more parts of the body
  • The cause of the swollen node is not clear
  • Large node lasts more than 1 month
  • Do you have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mildly swollen lymph node
  • Bellevue
  • Everett
  • Federal Way
  • Seattle

Care Advice for Small Lymph Nodes

  1. What You Should Know About Normal Nodes:
    • If you have found a pea-sized or bean-sized node, this is normal. Normal lymph nodes are smaller than ½ inch or 12 mm.
    • Don’t look for lymph nodes, because you can always find some. They are easy to find in the neck and groin.
  2. What You Should Know About Swollen Nodes from a Viral Infection:
    • Viral throat infections and colds can cause lymph nodes in the neck to get bigger. They may double in size. They may also become tender.
    • This reaction is normal. It means the lymph node is fighting the infection and doing a good job.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  3. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  4. Fever Medicine:
    • For fevers above 102° F (39° C), give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Note: Fevers less than 102° F (39° C) are important for fighting infections.
    • For all fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
  5. Do Not Squeeze:
    • Don’t squeeze lymph nodes.
    • Reason: This may keep them from shrinking back to normal size.
  6. Return to School:
    • Swollen lymph nodes alone cannot be spread to others.
    • If the swollen nodes are with a viral illness, your child can return to school. Wait until after the fever is gone. Your child should feel well enough to participate in normal activities.
  7. What to Expect:
    • After the infection is gone, the nodes slowly return to normal size.
    • This may take 2 to 4 weeks.
    • However, they won’t ever completely go away.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Node gets 1 inch (2.5 cm) or larger in size
    • Big node lasts more than 1 month
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse


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