NHL Cyberfamily

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma support


Lymph nodes

Illustrations of lymph node locations


Lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are body organs (not glands) spread throughout your body. Their function is to filter out all the dead bacteria, viruses, and other dead tissue from the lymphatic fluid and eliminate it from the body. They are also the place where the white blood cells (lymphocytes) spend much of their time. When the immune system is activated they begin producing large numbers of lymphocytes which causes them to swell.

There are about 500-700 lymph nodes spread throughout the body. Click on the diagrams below for highly detailed pictures of where the lymph nodes are located. Below the pictures you will find information about the proper size that lymph nodes should be, their names, and a quick summary of how they feel and what it means.

Before you panic about why your lymph nodes are swollen please read the following articles about the causes of swollen lymph nodes.  

Lymphadenopathy and Malignancy from the American Academy of Family Physicians

Lymphadenopathy: Differential Diagnosis and Evaluation

Head neck nodes
Head neck nodes
Axillary nodes
Axillary lymph nodes
Mediastinal nodes
Mediastinal (chest) lymph nodes
Lung nodes
Lung lymph nodes
Arm nodes
Arm lymph nodes
Abdominal nodes
Messenteric lymph nodes front
Abdominal rear nodes
Messenteric lymph nodes rear
Inguinal nodes female
Inguinal lymph nodes female
Inguinal nodes male
Inguinal lymph nodes male
leg nodes front
Leg lymph nodes front
Leg nodes rear
Leg lymph nodes rear

Some of the common names of the lymph node locations you will encounter are :

  • Cervical - Nodes in the neck
  • Axillary - Nodes in the armpits
  • Supraclavicular - Nodes along the collar bone
  • Mediastinal - Nodes in the upper body behind the sternum and between the pleural sacs (lung sacs)
  • Mesentery - Nodes in the lower body (abdomen) below the rib cage
  • Inguinal - Nodes in the groin
  • Femoral - Nodes in the upper inner thigh

Most normal lymph nodes are about 1cm in size (0.5 to 2.0cm) but that size varies depending on the location of the node, and what activity is going on. Infections, cancer and many other conditions can cause it to expand as the immune system reacts to the problem.

Abnormal size is defined as: 

  • Epitrochlear Lymphadenopathy >0.5 cm
  • Inguinal Lymphadenopathy >1.5 cm
  • Isolated lymphadenopathy in children >1.5 to 2.0 cm
  • Other lymphadenopathy >1.0 cm

Note: Epitrochlear in layman's terms means near the elbow or funny bone

From the links about lymphadenopathy at the top of this page you will also learn that the texture of the nodes is important. For example:

  • Being tender does not differentiate between normal and cancerous.
  • Rock hard nodes are more likely from some other type of metastatic cancer not lymphoma
  • Firm but rubbery nodes could be lymphoma
  • Soft nodes are most likely infection.
  • Shotty nodes (multiple buckshot size) are likely viral in nature