The term inguinal adenopathy is used to refer to enlargement of the lymph nodes located in the inguinal region of body, an area commonly referred to as the groin. Lymph nodes play an important role in the body's immune system, and help filter out harmful substances from the bloodstream. The main causes of inguinal adenopathy include cancer and infection.
In general, the term adenopathy is used to indicate that certain lymph nodes are enlarged. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, an important component of the body's immune system. They filter lymphatic fluid and remove dangerous substances from the circulatory system. When there are harmful substances in the lymphatic fluid, the lymph nodes can increase in size as they work to remove and process these substances.
Inguinal adenopathy can be identified in a number of ways. Some people might notice enlarged masses in their groin. These can sometimes be hard, firm, and painless, but can also be red, tender, and soft. In other cases, doctors or other health care providers might detect the adenopathy from their physical examination, as palpation of the groin is often performed to check for the presence of abnormalities. Sometimes adenopathy is found as a result of an imaging study done for a different purpose, for example from a computed tomography (CT) scan performed to evaluate the pelvic region.
Although a number of diseases can cause adenopathy, perhaps the most feared cause is cancer. Typically, nodes that are enlarged due to the presence of cancer are firm, immobile, and painless. In some cases, the cancer itself might have started in the lymph nodes, as is the case with lymphoma. Otherwise, a malignant tumor might have developed elsewhere, and cancerous cells from the tumor enter the lymphatic fluid and are filtered by the lymph nodes. The cancerous cells can then grow and replicate within the node.
A variety of different malignant cancers can cause inguinal adenopathy. As mentioned above, lymphoma is one type of cancer that commonly causes enlargement of the lymph nodes in this region. Testicular cancer is another cancer that commonly spreads to these nodes. Rectal cancer, vulvar cancer, penile cancer, and vaginal cancers can also cause inguinal lymph node enlargement.
Another cause of inguinal adenopathy is infection. Viral illnesses such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the Ebstein Barr virus (EBV) — a virus that causes an illness called infectious mononucleosis — are often associated with adenopathy throughout the body. Localized bacterial infections of the pelvic region, such as certain sexually transmitted infections, could also cause inguinal lymph node enlargement.