Swollen axillary lymph nodes - suspect lymphoma

Hi! I am a 46-year-old woman who has been struggling for the last year for a diagnosis. It began with constant nausea and vomiting in December 2009. I have struggled with that for the last year, taking phenergan, Zofran, compazine, antivert, etc. In January 2010, I began to have upper back pain, usually originating from the left side and radiating anywhere from the back to around the rib cage. I am pretty tough but this pain has really taken its toll on me. No one can seem to find out what this pain is. It is an achy pain, diffuse in nature. Recently, I have begun to feel pressure/slight pain underneath the rib cage on the left side. This seems to be directly in front of the spot on the back where the pain often originates from.

I also realized in October that my right underarm was quite swollen, about twice the size of the right. It is completely painless. I am currently finishing a course of Levaquin and prednisone and the swelling may have subsided a little but now I feel several swollen lymph nodes running from my clavicle to the underarm (along the axillary chain). I can't tell if these are rubbery, hard and firm, etc...

I have also lost about 25 to 30 pounds since November and often feel achy, fatigued, and weak. My appetite is poor. However, I do not run a fever. I have night sweats but am going through menopause and I don't have the drenching ones described for lymphoma. However, I do sweat terribly during the day, often having to change my bra due to this. I should also mention that I have been plagued with oral thrush for over a year and cannot seem to get rid of it (HIV test is negative).

I also have a lump/spur (??) on the inside of my left wrist that is quite painful. The other side (outside) is quite swollen; however, I have no pain on that side whatsoever. I am not convinced this has anything to do with the other symptoms, but thought it worth mentioning.

Another thing, I had a noncontrast (no oral or iv contrast) abdominal and pelvis CT in January 2010. This showed a small, peripherally calcified, probable cyst in my spleen. This was not there 5 years ago nor have I ever had any trauma to my spleen.

My concern is lymphoma, as I have no infection in my arm or breast. Except for a sinus infection for which my lymph nodes are swollen in my neck, I don't have any underlying reason for the swollen axillary nodes.

I am just wondering if anyone has any insight into this and/or had any similar symptoms. I am very frustrated and exhausted from this.

Thanks for listening to this long post and any help/info would be greatly appreciated.

Hi there, if your axillary nodes or neck nodes are still swollen I would push to have a biopsy done. Have you had a scan of these areas? In order to gain any peace of mind, esp because you keep having these issues you need to get answers. It took me almost a year to get my final diagnosis. In short, swollen neck nodes, ultra sound, blood work, Antibotic, told I had Mono. Nodes still swollen, tired, sore, sent to Allergest, skin tests and blood tests, all negative, sent to ENT, more antibotics, no result, CT, suggested biopsy, biopsy of neck node, positive for Diffuse large B cell Lymphoma, full body scan, stage IV, port put in, set up for Chemo to start. But questions arrose about the type of Lymphoma so I decided to seek a second opinion and went to MD Anderson. They ran all the tests again, including bone and heart and the diagnosis was changed to SLL IV, which is a slow growing, incurable type of Lymphoma but did not require Chemo at this time and I am on Watch & Wait. So you can see how even after you get some answers, (and I hope you do) you will still have to make sure you are your best advocate. Good Luck to you and keep us posted. I hope you get good news when you get your answers.

K.Beale, Thanks so much for your response. I have been sick for about a year and have actually been keeping a journal. Today I pulled out the ones from the beginning of the year and had forgotten some of the symptoms I had been having. I had forgotten I kept having intense itching on different parts of my body, I only thought it was my arm. Lately, I wake up and my lower back hurts so bad that I have to get up because I can't go back to sleep. It is not often but seems to be increasing. I just seem to have a lot of weird things, can't urinate, urinate constantly, feeling of needing to urinate. Horrible heartburn, not relieved by anything, needing to eat but full almost immediately... And of course, the weight loss, which is not an easy feat for me.

Luckily, I work in the medical field and am able to access information easily. I have a good grasp on medical information and know that I am my best advocate.

I have an appointment with a new internist with a great reputation next week. I have all my records and symptom lists to take with me.

Again, thank you so much for your help. Good luck with your treatment! I will keep in mind getting a second opinion, as well as making sure my biopsy sample gets sent to two different pathologists for diagnosis. I have Moffit Cancer Center nearby so if I need to, I can go there. At this point, as much as I don't want this to be the answers, at least I would know what is going on.. That is the worst, knowing something is not right but not knowing what.

Hi Mel

Have you explored the gallstone option? You've had abdominal scans so I guess it would have shown up then if it was that but many of the symptoms can be confusing as they can indicate both lymphoma and gallstones. Have had this issue myself and I have both small lymphocytic lymphoma and then got gallstones 2 years after diagnosis. Many of the problems I thought was due to the SLL were resolved by having my gall bladder removed. The intense itching, heartburn, feeling full very quickly, pain in the back and on the left side under the rib cage at the front (despite the gall bladder being on the right side). Also, I have lypomas on my collarbone as well, they're movable rubbery lumps and completely harmless apparently.

Have to say, if you do have lymphoma, I'm envious that you're losing weight...I just keep getting fatter!!

It's all so frustrating as lymphoma can be difficult to diagnose...doctors seem to go for the obvious choice...infections and allergies to asthma and other things.

KBeale, funny you mentioned the Allergist. I had 2 years of allergy shots to cure a horrendous cough, thought to be due to a bad dust allergy...turns out it was the lumps in my chest cavity irritating my lungs...though I do have a bad allergy as well!

I don’t think it is my gallbladder but it is a possibility. I actually believe that the heartburn is a result of one of my medications, but it seems to be relentless lately. I am not particularly concerned about it at this point. The fullness and loss of appetite has been going on for about 6 months but my appetite has increased due to the steroids over the last few weeks and I actually still lost weight! Definitely not complaining there!!! It is just very odd for me. I am hypothyroid, as well as perimenopausal. Before I got sick I would power walk 5 miles 3-4x a week and do strength training in the gym and I still struggled to get/keep the weight off. So this is extremely unusual for me. My main concern is the enlarged lymph nodes under my arm. They have been there for over 3 months, have not responded to Levaquin (2 courses), and two courses of steroids. When on the steroids, however, my symptoms minimize and I actually feel great but once off I go back to feeling awful again.

A tip for losing weight though is pharmaceutical grade fish oil. I started taking 1200 mg of EPA and 800 mg of DHA and all my cravings have disappeared. Even though I had no appetite, I still had cravings. It also works better than prescription antidepressants for depression. I had really been struggling this year with feeling sick all the time, not being able to find out what was wrong with me, etc… I am absolutely amazed at the difference in how I feel mentally.

Thanks for your feedback :slight_smile: Hopefully this week I will, at least, get some answers.


Hi Mel

Have you heard of a drug called Pariet (that's its name in Australia but it may be different eleswhere). I take it every time I take any medication including things like Panadol. It seems to protect the stomach lining from the harm from the drugs and prevents heartburn and stomach pains I get from almost all drugs. I started taking it after getting bad side effects from antihistamines and anti imflamatories and it's a miracle drug as far as I'm concerned!

I'm a big fan of fish oils and have a great interest in vitamins and minerals assiting in preventing and curing illnesses etc but I have to admit to being a bit on/off about actually taking these things. Will give the fish oil another shot though thanks!