Lumps or masses in your neck can have a number of origins, ranging from the benign to the concerning. A neck lump could be nothing serious, or it could signal the development of a serious condition like cancer. Benign neck masses occur frequently in children.
Even if you think your neck mass is benign, it's still a good idea to get it checked out by an ENT specialist right away. At ENT New York, Dr. Vandana Kumra, MD, can help you diagnose neck masses, and, if necessary, get you started with the right treatment. She works with patients in the New York metro area, using state-of-the-art approaches to ENT wellness.
What does a neck mass look and feel like?
Neck masses can vary from the very large and visible to the extremely small. Lumps may be hard or soft, and can be pale or reddish in color. You might feel pain associated with the mass, or it might be painless.
Neck masses can originate in the muscles, tissues, or organs of your neck, and their appearance varies depending on the location and cause.
Swollen lymph nodes make up one common type of neck mass. Lymph nodes swell due to illness, infection, medications, and stress. Swollen lymph nodes can occur in your armpits and groin, as well as your neck. Swollen lymph nodes can be painful or painless.
What causes neck masses?
Lots of different medical conditions can result in neck masses. Neck masses can be a symptom of serious conditions, like:
- Bacterial pharyngitis, inflammation in the back of the throat from a bacterial or viral infection
- Infectious mononucleosis, usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, often occurring in young people
- Tonsillitis, a viral or bacterial infection of the tonsil lymph nodes
- Mumps, an extremely contagious viral disease that can present with swollen salivary glands
- Rubella, a viral infection that presents with a reddened rash, dangerous for pregnant women
- Hodgkin's disease, presenting with painless swelling of the lymph nodes
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a diverse group of white blood cell cancers
- Thyroid or throat cancer
- Basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, presenting with raised and reddened areas
- Skin cancer/melanoma, presenting as a mole that has changed shape or darkened
Not-so-serious conditions can also result in neck masses. Sometimes, the mass may reveal an imbalance that can be corrected with treatment, so it’s always best to get a neck mass looked at by a doctor.
Non-serious causes of neck masses include:
- Thyroid nodules: These solid or fluid-filled lumps are usually harmless, but may be a sign of serious conditions like cancer or autoimmune dysfunction
- Goiters: Abnormal growths of the thyroid gland can be benign, but are also often indicative of underlying thyroid problems
- In children, branchial cleft cysts are a birth defect that can cause irritation around the neck, upper shoulder, or collarbone
- Lipomas are small nodules that are soft to the touch and move easily when touched
If you're concerned about a neck mass or lump, schedule a consultation with Dr. Kumra as soon as possible. ENT New York will review your health history, examine your neck mass, perform any further testing as needed, and discuss diagnosis and treatment options with you.
To make an appointment at our conveniently located Central Park West office, call today, or book online.