The body’s lymphatic system comprises lymph ( which is a fluid), lymph vessels, and lymph nodes. Lymph carries lymphocytes and other cells of the immune system, together with invading bacteria and waste products, through the tissues. Lymph is transported through lymph vessels, the microscopic tubes that carry it into the nodes.
Lymph nodes are little glands that contain millions of immune system cells. Clusters of lymph nodes are located in strategic places throughout the body. Lymph nodes are an important component of the immune system- the place where immune cells, primarily lymphocytes, are marshaled to fight invaders. Thus, the lymph nodes in your neck may swell when your body is trying to fight off an upper respiratory tract infection. Melanoma cells also may travel through lymph vessels into lymph nodes and start reproducing inside them.
If melanoma has spread to your lymph nodes, the disease takes on a different character.Lymph node involvement generally overshadows the pathology of the primary lesion in significance. Melanoma has declared itself as an actual rather than a potential invader. It is exploiting the lymphatic system to colonize new territory.
Even once melanoma has successfully penetrated the body to reach nearby lymph nodes, the cure rate is considerable. On average, 40 to 50 percent of those with regional node involvement are cured.(The overall range is 15 to 70 percent, depending on the number of lymph nodes involved and other factors).
If your physician feels an enlarged regional lymph node either on your first visit or in follow-up, you will probably be advised to have a biopsy (with a needle or a scalpel) of the node. If melanoma is found, a node dissection may be warranted.