bad things, problems

So You Have a Swollen Lymph Node on the Side of Your Neck

Day 1: Beginnings

You wake up in the morning. You wash your face. You wash your neck and everything is going great until, omigod, there is a GIANT PAINFUL LUMP under the left side of your jaw. Your throat is sore, but only on the left side. You remember saying yesterday that you felt a sore throat coming on, so you pass the day as usual. That night as you try to sleep, you have to adjust your positions to accommodate the new swollen friend who lives on your neck. The seeds of worry are planted in your mind.

Day 2: Maturation

The next morning you awake and immediately check the mirror. OK. It’s still there. Your throat is still sore (still on the one side). You show no other discernible symptoms of illness. You spend the day gently prodding the mass to see if you can discover it’s point of origin. You begin googling remedies for a sore throat. The fact that this is all occurring on one side of your neck begins to cause you some alarm. You go home and take some Advil and sleep the sound sleep of someone not harboring a tumor on their neck.

Day 3: Nosedive into Complete Nervous Breakdown

You wake up on Day 3. It’s still there, mocking you. Your throat is still sore. You have absolutely, unequivocally, zero other symptoms of sickness to speak of. You become greatly distressed. You begin googling things like “giant swollen lymph node on one side of neck.”

The first thing you learn, of presumably utmost importance, is that you should be able to tell whether the node is “squishy and moveable” vs. “hard and immobile”, as this is what separates “common cold” from “probably cancer”. Your desperation increases exponentially as you poke and move your lump, as it seems to be both squishy and hard, and it moves a little but not that much. Googling “degree of lymph node squishyness/moveability” does not yield any desired results and you become pretty sure that you do in fact have cancer because your node isn’t as squishy as it should be. And now it hurts more.

Is your node painful or not painful, be careful to note that NOT PAINFUL MEANS CANCER! Well, mine is definitely painful! Excruciating, now, actually. Yay! Did it appear suddenly as if from nowhere or did it grow slowly and steadily over time because SLOW AND STEADY MEANS CANCER. Why yes, it did appear suddenly! I am in the clear! Is it enlarged to over one inch? Because this is a cause for concern. Oh my god, I’m dying, I’m dying, YES it is bigger than one inch. I probably have days to live. Become greatly concerned.

You know what, just start flat out googling “lymphoma” and “how treatable is lymphoma” and images of lymphoma and images of other enlarged lymph nodes and “what is wrong with me” and “why is it only on one side” and “how do I get rid of it” and “why, just why”.

Go on your lunch break. Realize that you are probably blowing this whole cancer thing out of proportion. Remember that it could be a million other things, like a cold! Or the flu! Or maybe strep, or mono, or tonsillitis, or an abscessed tooth, or an ear infection, or a drainage problem,  or lymes disease, or Hodgkins Lymphoma. Or maybe just a tumor. Utterly fail at cheering yourself up, and also everything else, ever.

Come home from work. Talk to boyfriend. Take Emergen-C. Gargle with salt water until the inside of your mouth becomes like the skin of a lizard. Take some advil. Gargle again. Go to sleep.

Gargle again.

When this is all over and your lymph node has receded to normal size, remember for the next time this happens that a.) you are completely insane and b.) you should not have access to Google, because it will ruin your life.

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50 thoughts on “So You Have a Swollen Lymph Node on the Side of Your Neck

  1. Cristina says:

    I was freaking out about this and now I’m laughing thanks to you :) but I will most likely continue to freak out tomorrow :(

    • Ahhh!! If it makes you feel any better, my horrible, unwelcome friend went away a few days after this post, and hasn’t made a reappearance since. So freaky and, to this day, inexplicable. Hope it turns out the same for you :).

  2. Sean says:

    LOL, I also have the same presentation of symptoms and thought process! Too funny. I did make a doctor appt for tomorrow, but I just had to google sore throat swollen gland left side and see for myself.

  3. Esmond says:

    wow that is how I hope I will feel really soon, were you really really stressed out when this happened to you? otherwise, I think I may be dying…..I have had the same presentation and the same thought process, thanks for sharing!!!!!! Is also humorous…however until my symptoms depart…worrisome..hope I am laughing too…so need sleep, hoping that ‘s it

    • Donut says:

      Having the same thing right now, first day. Didn’t think twice about it until the hubby said maybe u should have it checked. Now I’m quietly going insane and googling – as I shouldn’t be allowed to do, ever, but can’t keep myself from doing. Hope it’s nothing for me too. :s

  4. Babz says:

    Wow, thanks so much. I was freaking out.lol. My fiancee just pointed out that he had a lump…and went to bed. Leaving me to Google every possible cause for swollen lymph nodes.
    Thank goodness I found this. It was just what I needed to read, after all the cancer possibilities.
    Thanks so much. :)

  5. Ally says:

    It’s like you’ve been listening to the inside of my brain for the past few days! Or tracking my Google searches. Or both…

  6. sahithi says:

    Lol Meh To Searched For The Pictures In Google And Was Frightened If I AWas Gonna Get Cancer ! :P

    Buh Tnx For This Article ! :)

  7. Anon says:

    Ha! I have other cold symptoms and was just Googling for whether I need antibiotics or not and ended up here. But I had the mysterious, symptomless lymph node problem on my head last summer! Freaky. It went away after a couple of months and the doc said it was nothing, lol.

  8. Abbey says:

    Thank you for writing this. It was reading this that got my husband to calm down and stop Googling symptoms. He’s actually laughing instead. Thank you again

  9. Karen says:

    I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this post!!! I am experiencing exactly what you have described! Thank you for; A. Making me laugh and B. Calming me down!! I will now probably sleep better and will see how things are in the morning! Many thanks for sharing!!!

  10. listerine says:

    You are so funny, I am now laughing at myself instead of nervously creeping on around on
    the internet. You are so right on the money! Thank you!

  11. rianne says:

    Lmao!!! Stop! It hurts to laugh!! Lol.. Got a swollen lymph node… Glad i read this.. I was panicking ge last couple of dayssince i had it

  12. This could not be any funnier, more accurate or needed. You really hit the nail on the head & made me laugh, ending the vicious “what if” cycle. THANK YOU!!! :)

  13. Reyna says:

    For reals!!! for a moment I thought I was reading my own journal, went to sleep at 3 am yesterday googoling my symptoms and everything turned to be cancer!!! I am so glad I read this, it is so comforting thank you for making me laugh. I will probably go to get it checked just in case but at least I am not freeking out anymore.

  14. Andrea says:

    Wow – I am going through the EXACT same thing right now. Except I felt flu-ish yesterday and slept most of the day. I had gone to my doctor the day before and she said I was just fighting a virus. The node is really, really painful and keep touching it hoping it will go down! Thanks for this though – I feel better knowing that it is, as my doc said, probably not serious!

  15. Rick says:

    Haha spot on..mliterally exactly What I do each time one or both swell up, even though it happens to me often, I still freak out…great post!

  16. Rie says:

    Probably the funniest thing I have read all week! Thanks for that well needed laugh!!

    Not my exact thought process…but only because that has been my thought process in the past! This time I was just trying to find a correlation between giant (no really…it’s 4 inches! lol) swollen lymph nodes and lupus, when I stumbled across your post.

    It did unfortunately cause my neck-friend a considerable amount of pain while I laughed whole-heartedly, but after all, they do say laughter is the best medicine!

    Thanks again and hope all remain well. Cheers

  17. Beth says:

    I have similar symptoms and fearing the worst….. except, except, except, my throat doesn’t hurt… just the lump grew quickly overnight and it’s pretty painful! I’m calling the doc tomorrow nonetheless.

  18. kt Diogo says:

    Oh god. Googling exactly this is how I got here. Exactly exactly. Cracking up except throat hurts. Dying. From pain and hilarity. Thank you so much.

  19. Jen says:

    Omg I am cracking up right now! You totally just described the last 4 days of MY life! Love this….I would be in a much worse state right now if my son hadn’t had this exact same thing about 2 months ago so I was familiar, but still paranoid and this just made my day!

  20. ashleigh says:

    Haha this just made my day. I’ve had very painful swollen lymph nodes on one side of my neck and was just looking for ways to relieve the pain. Thanks for letting me know I’m not dying :)

  21. Amy says:

    I was diagnosed with strep and have been takin me antibiotics for 3 days. The left side lymph node has been swollen for over a week, and it’s still pretty large. It’s also very painful. A little less painful now that I’ve been taking my meds. But I’m feeling weaker now, and throwing up. The node isn’t really shrinking either. :(
    I didn’t really worry about it being cancer until a couple people I know joked about it, now I’m worried. When I was diagnosed with strep, the doctor also ordered an ultrasound. Hopefully it goes down by Monday and I won’t have to worry anymore.

  22. 80 says:

    I actually googled “huge lymph node on side of neck” and found this. I was one step away from googling Lymphoma. THANK YOU for this post and for snapping me out of my insane freak out!! :D

  23. Well written and funny. Seems like this was written for someone like me. I hate it when I look up a symptom on WebMD and it brings out the worst anxiety.

  24. Ethan says:

    It was a relief reading this, it describe almost to the exact wording of what I was doing when I found a swollen node on my neck! Thank you for writing this article! Was freaking out until I stumbled upon this while trying to figure out what was wrong with me

  25. Jamie says:

    Pretty similar to me, and very well written. Thanks. :) For me, it was sore throat, followed by the swollen node, followed by a fever and mild headache. Going on day 3 here.so let’s hope for the best.

  26. Geoff says:

    This was exactly what I needed to see. The vague concern of cancer, the googling of lymphoma, mentions of Hodgkin’s, followed by a nice “stop being so crazy, you really suffer from Googlephoma.” Pretty sure it’s nothing to worry about, but the good laugh is keeping me from worrying overmuch.

  27. So what do you do when you have a large lump on one side of the neck that has slowly, but consistently grown for 3 years? I have gone to everyone from my personal physician to several ENT’s & not much has been done. They just keep telling me to just “watch it” & then they feel the lump. It is near a major artery, because it pulsates when you lightly touch it. My lump has grown in length from around 2.5 cm (when I first noticed it) to about 10 cm now. At times it will feel like it will swell out a little more & it is actually noticeable without even having to touch it. That is when I have more problems & I end up going back to see ENT b/c I will have stabbing pain in my ear & also in the curve of my jawline. The only test they have done is an ultrasound & that was 3 years ago. No CT & haven’t even looked into my throat. I have lost over 30 lbs, chronically tired, have night sweats & have been so fatigued for almost a year that the only time I go out of the house is when my husband takes me back to see a doctor. I have asked several doctors if this could be related to a chronic toxic exposure I had when I was in the military. I was exposed to Agent Orange, depleted uranium, pcb’s, ionizing radiation, pesticides & other chemicals that were dumped & stored at the military base I was stationed at. I learned about this several years ago when it was finally made public that the military base I was stationed at (Ft. McClellan) was the most toxic place on Earth & that Monsanto paid the Govt. to let them dump & store their toxins there from 1933-1999. I was there in the 70’s. I have had numerous mysterious health issues over the years, and most of the time, it takes doctors several years before they give me a diagnose & most of the time it is due to lack of testing. I’m not sure why they don’t want to order tests, because I have excellent health insurance & I have no unpaid medical bills. I usually have to ask them to do tests in order to find out what is wrong. It took them almost 3 years to tell me I had cervical cancer when I was 28. I asked for my medical records & it was clearly documented when I was precancerous, but they didn’t tell me until I needed a hysterectomy, So, I don’t have a lot of faith in the medical system as a whole because most doctors I have seen don’t believe that toxic chemicals can cause long term problems & treat me like a nut case. They usually end up finding a problem eventually, but usually when I ask them to do further testing. I have asked & asked for them to test on this lump, but I still can’t seem to get anyone to do anything, beyond the ultrasound from 3 years ago. I just recently found out I have an adrenal tumor (again I had to ask for tests due to abdominal pain radiating to my back). When I finally looked at my medical file again, they knew almost 1 year ago I had the tumor but didn’t tell me. I am seeing an endocrinologist next month, but they don’t treat swollen areas of the neck, unless it would be related to thyroid, which it isn’t even close to that area. I am at my wits end & am sick & tired of being sick & not having the energy to do the things I want to do. Any suggestions on finding a good ENT that might take this huge lump seriously? Sorry for rambling but so frustrated.

      • Lex, no my lump is not measured by mm … it really is 10 cm in length. But, if you want it measure in mm, then it would be 100 mm in length. The lump I have extends from just below the lower lobe of my ear down to the middle of my throat. I hope that clarifies things.

  28. Ben says:

    So you pretty much explained to me exactly what I have been going through to a “T”! The thing that made me laugh was I finally talked myself into just looking up Lymphoma and calmly reading about it because “it may be what I have” right before I found your blog… I did go to the doc and they prescribed antibiotics (which have done nothing to it) and have to go back next week. At least I can take comfort in the fact that someone else has gone through this same exact thing. If it is Lymphoma it is highly curable at least ;) So weird, I am the last person that would be considered a hypochondriac until something like this happens!!

  29. Ben says:

    For those of you that have had this problem and it went away on it’s own…how long did it take? I’m going on around a week now. Just wondering, and thanks!

  30. Samantha Rebillet says:

    Absolutely spot on! In bed with swollen lymph nodes, and Goggle searching all the possible horrors on my iPad. Cancer, tumour, lymphoma you name it. My doctor told me not to worry yesterday, but this doesn’t stop one from wanting to read more. Especially when bed ridden. Thank you for putting it all into perspective. Even if it does indeed prove serious, at least it comes with a smile :)

  31. Lex says:

    ….except for me….with a 10.5mm lymph node in my neck that is hard, doesn’t hurt and has been gradually getting bigger in the past year…my ENT oncology app is this tuesday.

    I’m 23.

  32. Debbi Hogue says:

    Lol this is just wonderful and I could not resist laughing because of how closely accurate/similar of an experience I’ve been going through! and it is because of an infection/abcessed tooth (I’ve confirmed with my dentist today.) Cannot wait for the lymph node to tame down, but it was comforting in the mix of all the Google lymph node nonsensical scarey BULLsht (I know some of the info is correct but not all is applicable to any swollen lymph node there ever was and it puts a bit of a damper, just a bit! On any kind of positivie thinking, which truly does effect outcomes!! Anywho, thank you, for this, I needed this and appreciate both it, and you, and the laughs it’s provided me. :)

    • I’m glad you have found the cause of your swollen glands & can ‘laugh’ at the comments. For some of us, it is not a laughable problem, nor is it (at least in my case) related to abscesses in teeth. I have had ultrasound, but mostly doctors just palpate the lump. Mine has continuously grown larger in the past 3 years to where it runs from at the bottom of my earlobe down to the area to the left of my thyroid gland (now 10 cm in length). So, I wouldn’t consider it the ‘average’ swollen lymph gland. I have had 4 different diagnosis as to what it is, but nobody seems to want to run further testing to confirm. So, it’s a little hard for me to ‘laugh’ at the comments others have commented about their areas of swelling.

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