It’s hard not to panic when you find a bump or lump on your body, especially if you find it on your neck. After all, it has to be cancer, right? Not necessarily. But you should still take it seriously and schedule a consultation with an expert like Dr. Vandana Kumra.
Dr. Kumra specializes in diagnosing ear, nose, and throat conditions at ENT New York, and she regularly sees people worried about lumps or masses they find on their necks. While this is completely natural, neck masses can occur for various reasons, and they aren’t always serious or life-threatening.
If you find a lump or mass in your neck, Dr. Kumra recommends working with a skilled medical provider. Not only can this help identify the cause of the problem and whether you require treatment, but it can ease your mind in the process.
Common causes of neck lumps
People often assume the worst when they find a new lump or bump in their neck. However, these masses can develop for several reasons, including:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Cysts, nodules, and lipomas
Each of these masses can arise with unique symptoms, which can help offer clues to your condition.
Swollen lymph nodes
You have lymph nodes in several parts of your body, including your face and neck. They contain a fluid made up mostly of white blood cells or lymphocytes that fight infection in your body and flow throughout your entire lymphatic system. Your lymph nodes also filter germs like viruses and bacteria from your tissue.
When you have an active infection in your body — like a cold, flu, or dental infection — your lymph nodes often get bigger as they work to clear your system of illness. Swollen lymph nodes can also develop because of immune system disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis and, less often, cancer.
Swollen lymph nodes often feel like a soft, small bump underneath your skin, anywhere from pea to grape size. It’s also common for them to be uncomfortable and tender to the touch. After you get healthy again, they return to their normal size.
Cysts, nodules, and lipomas
Cysts, nodules, and lipomas are also common causes of neck lumps and often describe noncancerous masses. However, some can have cancerous forms, so you should have it checked by a doctor to be safe.
A cyst describes a fluid-filled sac of tissue. They usually feel soft and often go away on their own. However, some require surgical drainage or removal based on size and location.
Nodules are abnormal growths of tissue, and they can develop anywhere in your body, including your neck. Dr. Kumra could recommend treating a nodule if it’s causing symptoms, growing quickly, or depending on its location.
A lipoma is a noncancerous mass filled with fat. They often run in families and can be a recurring problem once you have one. Like cysts, lipomas may need surgical removal, depending on their size and location.
If you have a deep, hard, or fairly big bump close to the surface of the skin, it could be a boil. These neck lumps form because of skin infections, so they can also have pus that comes out of them.
In most cases, a boil requires drainage from a healthcare provider. You could also need topical or oral antibiotics to treat the infection; severe cases can require intravenous antibiotics.
Another common cause of neck lumps is a goiter, a mass that occurs when your thyroid gland becomes enlarged. However, you can also develop nodular goiters, or lumps, that form on an enlarged thyroid gland.
Goiters often appear on the front of your neck and typically move up and down when you swallow since your thyroid gland moves with these actions. They usually indicate a problem with thyroid function, and Dr. Kumra could recommend various treatments, ranging from medication to radioactive iodine or surgical removal.
Finally, neck masses can also form because of cancer cells. These lumps often develop in the lymph nodes and typically feel irregular, hard, rooted in place, and painless.
At the end of the day, neck masses can occur for several reasons, so the best way to determine if it’s cause for concern involves a trip to the doctor. Dr. Kumra can determine what’s behind your symptoms and the most effective course of treatment, if needed.
Are you worried about a neck lump? Contact ENT New York to schedule a consultation with Vandana Kumra, MD, by calling 914-867-0399 today.