Lymphnodes - collarbone


I have recently been diagnosed with grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma (ER+). The first symptom I noticed was two swollen lymphnodes above my collarbone. I then found a lump in the breast. A biopsy was completed on the lump in the breast and the swollen lymphnode under my armpit. Cancer was found in the lymphnode under the arm. I have just started chemotherapy, so no information from surgery yet. However, can we be sure the lymphnodes above the collar bone are cancerous, when a biopsy wasn’t completed? I understand swelling indicates this, but can we be certain at this stage? Would it mean all the lymphnodes under the arm would also be cancerous?

Thank you.

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Hi jays93

Thanks for posting your question.

It’s understandable that you’re wondering how you can be sure that the lymph nodes under your collar bone are cancerous, as you haven’t had a biopsy of these nodes.

Although the only way to know for sure that cells are cancerous is to look at them under the microscope following a biopsy or surgery, your treatment team can use scans, such as a CT scan or PET-CT scan, to see how the lymph nodes look and if they seem cancerous. Often, a follow up scan is performed during or at the end of chemotherapy, when it is given before surgery, to compare to the first to see how the lymph nodes have responded to the treatment.

If the lymph nodes around the collar bone are cancerous, radiotherapy may be recommended after surgery to ensure any potential cancer cells in these lymph nodes have been treated. Having cancer in the lymph nodes by the collar bone wouldn’t necessarily mean all of the lymph nodes under the arm also have cancer cells in.

If you have not done so already, do talk to your treatment team about your concerns. They will be able to answer your questions based on your individual circumstances.

We offer a range of free supportive services for anyone who has had a diagnosis of breast cancer which you may be interested in. They include face to face and online courses and events. For more details about all of these services, please see the information in the link.

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