Lymph nodes are oval, pea - sized structures spread all throughout the head & neck. We all experience swollen lymph nodes during common colds, as they enlarge to fight off infection. 

Persistently swollen lymph nodes however may be a cause for concern. They can indicate chronic infection, tuberculosis, or cancer. Frequently, your doctor will observe lymph nodes for a period of time, and specific treatment may result in them normalising promptly. If not, various tests may be considered including blood tests, or a biopsy of a lymph node. Biopsies can be needle biopsies, which allow a few cells to be analysed. Alternatively, an excisional biopsy may be recommended to obtain a complete lymph node for detailed analysis. In cases of suspected lymphoma, this option is preferable. 

An excisional biopsy is usually performed under general anaesthetic. The scar is kept as small and discrete as possible, and placed over an obvious, shallow lymph node. Usually absorbable stitches are used, and a small dressing placed over it. Your surgeon will discuss typical post-operative recovery and the timeframe of expected results before your operation.