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Clinical investigations from the RACP

Investigating cervical lymphadenopathy: don’t miss the serious and malignant conditions

Ming-Celine Dubosq, Mark Hertzberg

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Abstract

Cervical lymphadenopathy is common and usually benign or self-limiting. Treatment of any identified cause and observation is generally all that is needed for mild localised cases with no suspicious features. Persistent cases with unidentified causes require further investigation.

Key Points

  • There is no substitute for a thorough history and physical examination.
  • Most cases of cervical lymphadenopathy are benign or self-limiting.
  • Patients should be referred early if there is a high clinical suspicion of malignancy.
  • In cases of persistent unexplained lymphadenopathy, tissue diagnosis is the key.
  • The empirical treatment of patients with persistent unexplained lymphadenopathy with antibiotics or corticosteroids should be avoided.

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