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Submandibular Gland Swollen - no one worried but me..

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2011

Hey all. I'm glad I managed to stumble my way onto the CSN boards and I have learned alot from reading many posts. My question is to those of you who have been diagnosed with cancer involving the submandibular gland. Can you give me a timeline from when you first noticed the gland was enlarged to what led you or your physician to believe it might be cancer?

After doing more research I am very worried that I could have possibly waited far too long without doing anything. I am a 25 year old male with no medical history, aside from diagnosing myself with anxiety. In March 2009 (in my final semester of nursing school, lots of stress on its own) I developed a bad sore throat and noticed my left submandibular gland became very swollen. I kept feeling the gland every day to see if it was any smaller, which seemed to keep the gland the same size or made it more swollen and painful. Eventually I realized if I left the gland alone, it would shrink and become painless, however it was still there, and I could feel it everytime I swallowed. I never went to the Dr. at that time due to my wife and I having very basic insurance as we were both in our senior years of college without full time jobs.

Fast forward to February 2010, finally I made an appointment with a new physician in another town where my wife and I moved due to work. I told him what I just told you above, he felt the lymph nodes (also a very tiny, but palpable lymph node on the back of my head on the left side as well. also has not changed in size) and said they are very small, but he consulted me to a good ENT an hour's drive away. He also put me on antibiotics, and checked me for mono. The antibiotics didn't do anything, and the mono result came back negative. Later that month I saw the ENT physician who felt my lymph nodes and said they are so small there is nothing to worry about. I told him about how they wax and wane, some days the submandibular gland feels like it's normal size and other days it feels larger, sometimes depending on how hydrated I am. He said he was hesitant to do a biopsy of a gland that is so small when he is sure it isn't cancer. I left his office with him telling me not to worry about it unless the gland gets bigger. He told me my lymph nodes might be a little swollen due to having skin dermatitis.

So here I am a year later, the gland is still larger than on the R side. I can still feel it when I swallow, but still very small when I palpate it. My fear is that overall, it has been 2 years since I first noticed the swollen gland and I haven't had any scans done or anything. Worried that if it is cancer, it might be spreading.

I seem to be the only one concerned. Family members and physicians as stated above seem to be shrugging off the idea of anything serious. Please provide any suggestions or recommendations. God bless you all.

sweetblood22's picture
Posts: 3228
Joined: Jan 2010

I think I might want a biopsy. Or I would at least go to another ENT for another opinion. I had a swollen lymph node on my left side. I noticed it on 10/9/08. I really didn't panic or think anything about it. I have had swollen lymph nodes before. I went to primary doc in November. I was getting bigger and I felt another lump which was my salivary gland. Antibiotics didn't help so I went to the ENT. By December my tumor was the size of a large lemon. Fine needle biopsy showed SCC (squamous cell carcinoma). I had a neck dissection Jan 'o9. Making a long story short they never found my primary cancer the tumor and lymph node swelling was the metastasis. They took out 23 lymph nodes three were cancerous and they took that salivary gland.

If he is sure it's not cancer, what does he think it is? Skin dermitis that causes lymph node swelling? Idk. I think I would be getting another opinion. Did you have a CT Scan or Pet Scan? Oh. Sorry you said you didn't. I think I would want tests and a new ENT opinion. Maybe others will weigh in on what they think.

As far as the insurance thing goes please don't let that stop you from getting treatment. You can also apply at hospitals for financial help. Sometimes if you are low income you can get help or get necessary care for free. Good luck.

Posts: 72
Joined: Nov 2010

I aggree! You need a second opinion.

charles55's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Aug 2010

PP, I think you are the customer here, and if you want to know what is going on with the swelling gland/node, then your doctor is being paid to help you know that. You can't diagnose cancer by just palpaiting it; I agree with Sweets that a biopsy is needed. I would almost wonder that if the swelling comes and goes, then the duct out of that one, or the lymphatic node down stream of that one, is blocking up with something. Please don't wait. When it comes to cancer, waiting does not working in your favor.

Posts: 14
Joined: Feb 2011

Hi ya-

Just got diagnosed with cancer- thought for 2 years had to due with sinuses for it would pop out and in-

then dentist in November, 2010 (since it then stayed out and I could feel) then dental oral surgeon, then ENT Dec 2010, then CT Scan, MRI (2 weeks ago) then needle biopsy Monday- yikes cancer, surgery this Wednesday, March 2 - it can be slow growing so dont keep looking back best to get a ENT or Otolarygology appt and get a scan ...

keep up the faith!!

Scambuster's picture
Posts: 973
Joined: Nov 2009

They do a needle Biopsy but whatever, I would get one to knock out that possibility it is something more sinister. insist if you have to, it's your body.


D Lewis's picture
D Lewis
Posts: 1579
Joined: Jan 2010

Remain calm. But do some follow up. I had a lymph node that was over 3 cm in size, and remained that way for three or four months, even through a couple of courses of antibiotics. My ENT ultimately told me that a lymph node that large typically does mean cancer. His first recommendation was for a needle biopsy, but please know that there is a very high false negative rate for needle biopsies. Mine came back negative. So, given that the node was 3 cm, my ENT took it out. I had Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

I would be reassured that yours has not substantially increased in size (i.e. the "lemon" described by Sweet) and that it fluctuates in size. A tumor would not do that.

Good luck in your search for information. Find the best doctor, and trust him or her.


speleorelic's picture
Posts: 9
Joined: Feb 2011

I just joined about 2 minutes ago and looked up head and neck cancer, and saw your post. I'm freaking out because what you describe is EXACTLY what I had/have. I had a mild sore throat and a swollen gland, and went to dr to check it out. They started with antibiotics,, no change. Did a xray, then a scan and needle biopsies. The needle biopsies are very easy, especially in a lymph node so close to the surface. But all that came back was dead material,, they couldn't really get a reading of anything. The Dr tried looking down my throat with that device that threads into your nose and down your throat,, but couldn't see anything. Finally they put me to sleep and looked(with some kind of scope) down around my voice box,, in the sinus' on either side,, sphygnoid I think it's called. There was a patch of cells which were cancerous,, sqamish cell. I've since gone through chemo and radiation,, and am recovering from treatment. I've been eating solid food for almost two weeks now, was on liquid diet for two months. I have to wait 2 more months(3 months after end of treatment) to get my final scan to make sure it's all gone. I hope it's gone.

I would suggest that you demand to be scoped,, all the way down your throat,, and have them look into your esophogus and trachea too. That swollen gland is doing what what it was intended to do,, it's catching material that is trying to spread. maybe it's cancer,, maybe it's not, but I'm telling you,, I couldn't have written up my situation any better than you did to describe what was happening to me. My dr's suspected cancer from the start,, can't understand why your dr would say forget it??


Posts: 7
Joined: Oct 2009

I have had a swollen submandibular gland and lymph nodes on the left side for the past 2yrs. I have had 3 ultra sounds (last one just Wednesday) as well as a CT scan(Oct10') and MRI(Oct11'). The MRI showed the lymph nodes to be on the large side of normal which made my ENT decide to have the ultra sound as a follow up. I had salivary gland cancer on my palate back in 08' so I am nervous about this. My ENT said he may do a fine needle biopsy or excision depending on what the ulrasound shows. Have to wait now to get the results since both my ENT and family doctor are away on holidays.

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