What Is Axillary Adenopathy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2019
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Axillary adenopathy is swelling and disease in the axillary lymph nodes located along the arms, wall of the chest, and breasts. This can be a sign of a serious medical issue, especially when combined with other symptoms like enlargement in neighboring lymph nodes, fever, or fatigue. A doctor can evaluate a patient with axillary adenopathy to determine the cause and develop a treatment plan to address the issue. Treatment options can vary considerably, from a course of antibiotics to chemotherapy for cancer.

In healthy patients, the axillary lymph nodes remain small. They can be palpated with some effort, but shouldn't be enlarged, hot, or tender. When the nodes swell and start to cause discomfort, it is a sign of a problem inside the body. The patient may notice tenderness around the chest and could observe skin flushing in some cases. A doctor will be able to easily feel the inflamed lymph nodes.

Some potential causes of axillary adenopathy can include medication reactions, autoimmune diseases, and infections. The doctor may feel other lymph nodes, take the patient's temperature, and ask the patient about any recent medical events. A blood test may also be helpful to check for signs of infection or abnormal blood chemistry. All of this information can be pulled together to determine why the patient has disease in the axillary lymph nodes.


A recent medical history of issues like fatigue, nausea, or bone pain can be a cause for concern. The patient should also be careful to disclose all medications currently in use, including alternative medications like herbal supplements and drugs purchased over the counter, like aspirin. Sometimes a single medication isn't the cause, but a reaction to a combination of medications might be the culprit.

Infections like cat scratch fever and brucellosis can be treated with appropriate medications. If the patient has a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, better management of the issue may reduce the swelling and resolve the axillary adenopathy. Sometimes the swelling is the result of leaking or ruptured breast implants or a cancerous growth, in which case the patient may need surgery to treat the problem. Cancerous lymph nodes need to be removed to protect the patient from additional metastases.

The doctor may consider conservative treatments first to reduce risks to the patient. In cases of axillary adenopathy, it can take several weeks for the swelling to fully resolve, even if the patient's medical issue responds well to treatment. The lymph nodes need to clear infected and inflamed tissue, and this does not happen overnight. If the lymph nodes remain diseased, the doctor may consider other diagnosis and treatment options.


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