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Lymph system


The lymph system is a network of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels that produce and transport lymph from tissues to the bloodstream. The lymph system is a major component of the body's immune system.

Lymphatics and the breast

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Lymphatics and the breast


Lymph is a clear-to-white fluid made of:

  • White blood cells, especially lymphocytes, the cells that attack bacteria in the blood
  • Fluid from the intestines called chyle, which contains proteins and fats

Lymph nodes are soft, small, round- or bean-shaped structures. They usually cannot be seen or easily felt. They are located in clusters in various parts of the body, such as the neck, armpit, groin, and inside the center of the chest and abdomen.

Lymph nodes

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Lymph nodes

Lymph nodes produce immune cells that help the body fight infection. They also filter the lymph fluid and remove foreign material such as bacteria and cancer cells. When bacteria are recognized in the lymph fluid, the lymph nodes produce more infection-fighting white blood cells, which causes the nodes to swell.

The lymphatic system includes the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus.

See also:


Armitage JO. Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 147.

Review Date: 11/14/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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